Master of Information and Data Science Immersion Day Three
The third day of the MIDS immersion began with an interactive session on “Effective Collaboration in Companies,” led by UC Berkeley School of Information professor Morten Hansen .
The session kicked off with an exercise about a hypothetical company facing a collaboration problem. Students brainstormed ideas about how to salvage a flagging division — Should they shut it down? Beef up the team? Restructure the entire division? Through role-playing and group discussion, they worked to solve the company’s problems in a way that they may be asked to repeat in their future careers.
Hansen told the group that bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration at all. He used the example of Daimler (bad business case), BP (over-collaboration), and Sony Connect, a digital music player tied to an online music store that predated the iPod, and just as readily fell to its competitor when the iPod came along. Why? Despite having a Walkman division, a wide music catalog, and all of the other necessary components, Sony was never able to get sufficient collaboration to integrate hardware, software, service, and content. Theirs was a failure of teamwork, and the students offered solutions from what they’d learned.
The takeaways from Hansen’s talk were two-fold:
- The goal of collaboration is not to collaborate, but to yield great results.
- Whether on a project or company level, collaboration must have a unifying goal. Is the task clear, primary, and compelling? If not, the students learned, it may be best to forgo collaboration and to recognize when individual work may be better suited for a cause.
The students took this lesson to heart. Here’s a look at what they had to say.
I really think that Morten Hansen’s session this morning was one of the more fascinating talks on helping us to develop our leadership knowledge and qualities. My enjoyment of a management session was actually unexpected as I always believed I would take the route of a technical expert over a managerial route, no matter the company. However, I realized in part due to Hansen’s talk, that I can use management ideas and collaborative techniques at any level, including projects that involve only one other partner. I also felt connected in that I could see how certain good and bad practices that he had discussed were in place in some of my own experiences of collaborating within groups.
One of the things that I’ve heard before in other contexts, and which Hansen unsurprisingly echoed today, was the idea that more isn’t always better. In fact, over-collaboration can be worse than none at all. This is something that I think we have all intuitively felt, but which was helpful to have brought into the discussion and the forefront of conversation. In fact, Hansen confirmed a lot of things that you feel are true about collaboration, but which you might otherwise have trouble articulating and which you would have trouble proving without his years of data as support. And as a future data scientist, I could appreciate his data and research.
—Celia Ludwinski, May 2014 cohort
The final session that the students attended took place in a suite at the Oakland A’s stadium in advance of an Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals matchup. I School lecturer Andy Brooks walked the students through two hypothetical scenarios: one, in which a team needed to improve ticket sales and the other in which the league needed to better compete against other professional sports for fans’ interest.
After a brief discussion of the theoretical background to these problems, the students were set loose in the O.co Coliseum to collect data on how fans were interacting with the game experience and to brainstorm solutions to the hypothetical scenarios. The sports analytics session was unique to the MIDS immersion, and the students greatly enjoyed the exercise:
As a close follower of sports analytics, I was eager to hear Andy’s talk about the state of analytics in baseball. Expecting to hear about how the next brilliant statistic or technology would revolutionize player valuation or in-game decision making, I was surprised to hear his conclusion that using analytics for revenue maximization may very well be the next place to find a competitive edge.
By stepping back and asking the question, “How can I best spend analytics resources to help the team win?” Andy came to an unintuitive conclusion. So many resources have already been devoted to understanding nuances of player statistics that additional research may have less marginal value. But revenue maximization, where most teams have devoted fewer resources, can allow a team to build a formidable war chest, which can be used to buy players, enhance a ball park experience, or expand that experience beyond the physical ballpark.
These are the kind of insightful questions that the MIDS students are learning to ask. The dedication to teaching students to be thought leaders, not just number crunchers, is what makes the program so exciting.
—Ross Boberg, May 2014 cohort
After hearing from Andy Brooks about sports analytics, the students were treated to a baseball game, where an Oakland A’s extra inning walk-off win was the perfect finale to their week at UC Berkeley. We’re so glad we got to spend time with members of our January and May 2014 cohorts, and we can’t wait to meet more students at our next immersion!
From the mouths of students:
Today’s session on Collaboration in Organizations was highly inspiring. Professor Hansen shared some very valuable insights into how successful companies collaborate, and more importantly, when it makes sense to collaborate and when it doesn’t. I think knowing the difference between when to collaborate, and when not to, is key because a lot of organizations waste precious time, resources, and effort in wishful collaboration projects, without understanding what they really need in order to solve their problems. I particularly liked the activity where we were asked to think like company executives, and come to a decision on how the company should proceed, because we will be involved in similar high-stakes decision making processes throughout our careers, and such activities help us comprehend the mindset that we should have when we approach such problems.
The biggest takeaway for me was how each individual, irrespective of his/her position in the organization, can take a step toward building a culture of collaboration within the company. Such sessions highlight the fact that the MIDS program is geared toward making us future leaders, and not just scientists who work with data! Thank you to the organizers for including this fantastic session as part of the immersion!
—Nikhita Koul, January 2014 cohort
I’m really glad for the opportunity to attend the Immersion. The ability to meet my fellow peers face-to-face was, I think, important for my ability to connect better with them in the entirely online context that is the MIDS program. I think it’s a great way to start the program. I enjoyed sharing my passion for data and its exploration with like-minded people in the immersion and in the DataEDGE conference. I think [the sessions] were all interesting and helped me to kick-start my creative and technical juices for the start of classes.
—Celia Ludwinski, May 2014 cohort
Since I have a background in finance, I came to the immersion thinking about data science through a financial lens. Exposure to other domains and applications at the DataEDGE conference was truly eye opening and forced me to expand my thinking about data science.Meeting people from these different fields provided exciting opportunities for sharing best practices between them.
—Ross Boberg, May 2014 cohort