#080: Making Sh** Happen with Evan LaPointe

Do you ever feel like you’ve got the analytics blues because you see what needs to happen, and it’s something innovative, and all the signals say it’s the right thing to do… but the realities of organizational life are a brick wall on the path to progress? Welcome to corporate life, buddy. That’s just the way it is! Or…is it? On this episode, the gang sits down with Evan LaPointe and gets him to jam a bit — literally at first, and then figuratively — about organizational dynamics, the tradeoffs between personality types, and why it can be counterproductive to always try to cater to all of the different psychologies and mindsets in any given meeting. And round tables.

Sh** Referenced in the Episode

Episode Transcript


00:05 Speaker 1: Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. Tim, Michael, Moe, and the occasional guest discussing digital analytics issues of the day. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/analyticshour, and their website, analyticshour.io. And now, the Digital Analytics Power Hour.


00:28 Michael Helbling: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. This is episode 80. That’s a nice round number. Do you ever get the blues, the analytics blues? You got data to make changes, but you can’t make a change? You got insights to open new ranges, but you can’t get that acceptance? You got the analytics, the analytics blues. [laughter]

01:20 MH: So much goes into transforming an organization. And as analysts, we’re often in the front seat of that car, but sometimes it feels like there’s no steering wheel. Well, the analogy doesn’t really hold up, but there’s art and science to getting your org to where you want it to go and where you know it can go. Moe, you work at a company. Have you ever felt this way?

01:43 Moe Kiss: Yeah, from time to time.

01:45 MH: At other companies you’ve worked at. At other companies.

01:47 MK: Yeah. All those other ones, of course.

01:50 MH: And Tim, I know you’ve never felt this way because some have said you’re the quintessential analyst.

01:56 Tim Wilson: One person has said I am the quintessential analyst. [chuckle]

02:00 MH: But it’s really starting to catch on though. I really feel like you’re gonna be a [02:03] ____…


02:06 MH: But for a true understanding of the business and the personal dynamics, we needed a guest with a deep understanding of both analytics and the human psyche. That’s why we got Evan LaPointe. Evan, in addition to being a talented blues guitarist [chuckle], has also run analytics teams. He’s had his own successful startup. He created Satellite, which is now Adobe’s DTM. He’s worked in product management at Adobe. He’s been a consistent voice at the front of our industry. His current startup, Core Consulting, is set up to help companies become innovative. My friend, and sometimes mentor, welcome to the show, Evan.

02:47 Evan LaPointe: Thank you very much. What an intro.

02:49 MH: Well, it’s all deserved. Well, this is great because so often I think a lot of our conversation in this realm really focuses on the practical steps you do to leverage data to get people to your side. And why I’m really excited about this conversation is, I think what we’re gonna try to do in this show is take a more holistic view. And so maybe to kick things off, I’d love, Evan, for you to kinda describe how those two come together in your mind, in terms of the people and the technologies to kind of make things happen within an organization.

03:29 EL: Yeah. That’s kind of the jumping off point to hopefully get a little bit of everything when somebody comes into work in the morning. You’ve got your typical “people, process, technology” triangle, but ultimately, people have to make all the decisions and have to create everything that gets made. Understanding how people are going to receive information and the types of decisions they’re going to make with that information, working in what’s often a really political environment, and either working directly in that environment or finding ways to creatively work around some of that sometimes.

04:01 EL: It’s all about the people, and that’s why the company’s name is Core because at the core of every business is its people. And I think diving a layer deeper than that, at the core of each person, sits their psychology. And the deeper you study this, the more you realize these preferences that people have, and these behaviors are very real. Once you buy into that, you can start to modify your approach and be a lot more successful. That’s what it’s all about.

04:28 TW: It sounds like Michael has channeled you, or you were channeling Michael. It seems like a lot of companies do the, “Hey, we’re gonna do StrengthsFinder,” or “We’re gonna do Myers-Briggs.” Or we’re going to… Let’s just do the assessment, and then educate people as to what the… Everybody’s wonderful. We just have to understand that each other think differently. How is that different from that?

04:54 EL: Yeah. That’s part of it. I think that the Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinder is a part of it, but there are a lot of things that, when you look at those, that they don’t acknowledge. StrengthsFinder is a great example of a system that doesn’t acknowledge the bipolar nature of personality, that as you get stronger at certain things, you get weaker at other things. And to be strong at certain things, it requires you to be weak in other areas. A great example of that is just kind of creative thought that a person who’s very industrious and kind of their immediate reaction to an idea is to start working on that idea, they’re kind of disposed to not have that clear-headed, take a step back style of thinking about things.

05:33 EL: There’s more of a sense of urgency and immediacy. And conversely, the people who prefer to step back and think about things, often struggle to jump right to action on things when that’s really what’s required. I think most people in the end want to act on what they do, but you have to firstly understand that these opposites are a very real phenomenon. That’s one place that’s tough when you say it in StrengthsFinder, here’s all the things you can do. And people just always have this reaction, “Well, if only that person was a little more creative,” or, “If only that person was a little more focused when we just have to kinda get to work.” Well, it just doesn’t work that way. Human beings just don’t work that way, and we have thousands of years of experience to support that idea. That’s one thing that’s really key.

06:15 EL: The other thing is, if you work in a large organization and you ask people to kind of understand each other’s strengths or understand there’s Myers-Briggs profile, DiSC profile, SDI profile, Birkman, etcetera, you’re kind of hoping that they’re always in a good enough mood and have a good enough memory that they can have five or eight meetings in a day and somehow manage to remember everybody’s preferences. And somehow be in a good enough mood where they don’t just snap. And somehow where they actually transform all of their ideas into language that’s built for each recipient and that there’s no meaning lost when that translation happens. It’s just not really realistic at all.

06:52 EL: When you think about personality, I think it’s more about choosing the right psychology for the problem that you’re trying to solve. In organizations, when they fill roles, should be thinking about… For example, if I have a product manager, there are different styles of product managers. There are some who are very focused on delivery, in the backlog, in fulfillment of customer requests. And others who are very focused on the market, and customers, and what they’re saying, and what their lives look like, etcetera. And you need to strike a balance between those two, and the best way to do that is to hire both types of people, and put them in certain types of roles.

07:23 EL: It becomes important that certain types of people exist in higher roles as well. The thinking types will probably be more empowering to those more practical types underneath them. Whereas, if you turn that upside down and you put the practical type in charge of the entire product department, as an example, they’ll see a lot of that thinking process, and visiting customers, and learning about the market, and tangential activities as a poor use of time.

07:48 EL: There’s real risk in a business of mismatching psychologies and problems, and that’s different for each role in the organization. But it also is pretty clear when you interact with your peers day in and day out, which people are very well suited to the type of problem they’re trying to solve and which ones are maybe not quite as well suited. It’s more about just the way that your mind tends to lean is that super productive for beautifully solving the types of problems you have to solve in your job or not. It’s less about this Myers-Briggs. Let’s hope that if you understand yourself and each other little bit better, that good things will start happening.

08:23 MK: I literally have about 10,000 questions from what you’ve just opened with there. But one that I particularly really wanna touch on is, I used to work in government and a lot of time, you go on these courses, you do these personality tests, you work out like, “Okay, I’m an introvert, extrovert, or I am practical, thoughtful,” all these different things. But that example that you talked about about the… You have eight meetings that day and trying to tailor your responses each time for the person you’re in the meeting with.

08:55 MK: I guess my question is around, how do you take that knowledge of what kind of person you are and where you need to develop, and also the knowledge of what kinda people your colleagues are and make that something lasting? So that it’s not, you go into this course and then you walk out being like, “Yeah, I’m an ED EMTG,” or whatever, but then you don’t do anything with that, right? You have this one epiphany and then it kind of fades. How do you keep it current?

09:23 TW: That’s why you’re saying it’s bullshit. That is like everybody is in the moment saying, “This is gonna change my life.” And then the practical reality is 5% of people can actually try to apply that two weeks, two months, two years down the road where there… I have I known the people who can. Michael, actually, you’re probably one of the people who can. But I was listening, Evan, what you were saying was, “No.” If you think the goal is to just have everybody trained up on understanding these differences and then interact more perfectly, you’re totally kidding yourself. But that may be me with my totally cynical view, hearing what Evan was saying, maybe not as he was actually intending it.


10:02 EL: Yeah. You have to look at it in terms of energy exertion, that when you’re operating in your own comfort zone, it’s very low energy. And if you start operating in ways that are not your natural mode of thinking and talking, it uses a lot more energy. Even if you come into work that day, trying to adapt to other people’s styles and knowing them, by noon, you’re physically exhausted. And there’s actually been a lot of testing done on this concept to where there’s… People actually draw blood after heavy mental exertion. And they have found there’s almost exactly the same effect in the blood sugar levels when you have heavy mental exertion as when you have heavy physical exertion, like endurance sports.

10:47 TW: Does weight loss come with that, ’cause I think maybe I’m just not…

10:50 MH: Sadly, Tim, no, it does not.


10:56 EL: The weight loss comes more with the depression that…


11:02 EL: No, but it’s interesting. And when people are thinkers, and that is not as valuable in school or in work as it would sound, for one thing, or as the busier people are. And of course, you saw that kind of what the Steve Ballmer years at Microsoft versus the Satya years that have followed, that Ballmer was very focused on drive, and move things forward, and grow revenue, and he was very successful at that, but ultimately, the company stopped, flattened over time, and the company became far less innovative. They had a lot more in-fighting. They had very dissatisfied customers and the company ground to a halt and missed numerous, huge, tectonic-type trends that came across their view, the cloud, and mobile, and all that stuff. They were practically non-participants. You could say that they tried to do things but the truth is they got into mobile five or six years late. They just floundered on a lot of this stuff and it’s because their culture was not centered around thinking. It was centered around doing. It’s really tough.

12:00 EL: And you can’t blame the people that work at Microsoft any more than you can blame the people that work in some of the American auto places, and you could say, “Well, they’re not as good at designing cars as the Germans are.” Well, yeah, their designers are just as good. It’s just all the people who support them or enable them are not. And it’s just that mentality, so it’s just really tough. I don’t think that the Myers-Briggs stuff in anyway is BS. I think everybody should do it. They should learn about themselves and learn how they’re valuable. And they should start to understand whether they can be productive in the environment that they’re in.

12:31 EL: I think the call to action from Myers-Briggs is to find an environment where you can be your natural self as often as possible. And in the mean time, survive a little bit. But for me, I wouldn’t say I’ve been super successful personally working for other people. I’ve actually been kind of very unsuccessful working for other people. And that’s because I naturally want to kind of analyze whether the question being asked is even the right question to ask. That’s just kind of who I am. It’s what made me a good analyst. I’m very inquisitive down to the very root of the question being asked.

13:09 EL: But ultimately, there are a lot of people saying, “Do this,” and I was saying, “Well, no. I’m not really gonna do that because that’s completely the wrong thing to do.” And they’re like, “Well, it’s what the people higher up wanna do.” And I said, “Well, that’s good for them but they want the wrong thing and I’m not doing it.” [chuckle] And that causes issues but in some environments… But I’ve been more successful when I’ve been able to apply these concepts in a situation where I’m able to hire people or organize the teams, where I can understand, “Oh, this is the type of problem we need to solve. We need somebody who’s going to understand broader vision and be able to distill that into terms as Q&A happens on a day to day basis. They can answer people’s questions and keep things moving at scale.” That’s a very specific type of profile, psychological profile, that’s really, really good at that.

13:57 EL: And if you put that fit into that role, you will succeed in spades. And if you put a fit that’s very bad at that in that role, you will have systemic failure. It’s very useful but it’s hard when you’re subject to other people’s decisions. [chuckle] It’s much easier when you have that knowledge and then can actually orchestrate those teams on your own. The long answer but I think the take away is, people need to start voting with their feet with a lot more confidence. And I think, in the analyst market, there is a lot of power. There’s a shortage of great analysts. I would personally like to see, in the next 24 months, lots of analysts leave their companies. And that’s the thing that will force these companies to start understanding the value they do create, realizing that all the good people are leaving.

14:42 MK: So just on that, it sounds like nirvana is kind of this place where you get to be yourself the majority of the time, you have enough diversity in the group that you work with, that you don’t have a complete group thing, that you are still being challenged a little bit, but not so much that it literally drives you to draw blood or equivalent feelings.


15:05 MK: So, I guess, if you’re in a team where you don’t feel like you have that, what you’re saying is the only option is to leave. If it isn’t, how do you work through it? Or where is it an okay chance to work through it, versus, “Actually, this is just not… This isn’t the right team for me or the right environment for me.”

15:23 EL: Yeah, I don’t think it’s the only option at all. I think there’s two options that have to do with staying. The first is to do your best to summon up that energy and communicate in a different style but try to do that… Take a step back from that and put some planning in place to where that actually feels like, over the long term, it’ll start getting better as opposed to you hoping over the long term it will get better.

15:48 EL: And a good example of that is when you find somebody who just kinda thinks diametrically opposite of you. You tend to care about how the people involved feel and they couldn’t give two shits about how the people involved feel. Experiment with them and set things up that maybe like a two-week resolution to the problem you’re working through, as opposed to an immediate resolution. Don’t get in an argument about why they should be more empathetic.

16:12 EL: Say, “Hey, would you be open to an experiment where we try a different approach?” And then walk them through that approach over the course of two weeks. Let them actually observe the social data that gets created from that approach. And it’ll start to kinda change their mind because there are different ways that intellects process what’s going on. The most basic and most common way that people evaluate truth is their own observations, their own experience. And that’s… Plays really heavily into this idea of cognitive bias that was so familiar with conversation. But most people don’t understand what cognitive bias actually is.

16:47 EL: Ultimately, a big part of what cognitive bias is, is just people way over-index their own experience and you can find people who will just adamantly fight against an idea. They’ll have a personal experience that is the opposite of that idea and then they’ll adamantly switch to the other side and fight for the other side, without realizing that there is no side. It’s just kind of almost funny to watch people struggle back and forth with that. There’s a great book called “Immunity to Change” that discusses this in its first 25 or 30 pages.

17:17 EL: And talks about these levels of mental complexity and how people see problems and solve them. And it goes from this idea that if something is generally accepted and is reflective of their own experience, they’re on board with it. All the way to this idea where there is no such thing as truth and any one statement could be proven true in some scenarios and false in other scenarios. And what you’ll find is that when you deal with extremely intelligent people, which we all have in our day to day life at times, they tend to kind of dance around subjects and they can see things from multiple perspectives at the same time and evaluate the perspectives themselves as opposed to just the idea. And everybody’s capable of doing that, it just requires, like we said earlier, that mental energy.

18:00 EL: And you’ve gotta commit to spending that mental energy. The thing that I would suggest to most people is find something that totally disagrees with you on a subject, and read it, and decide. There’s a few salient points in there ’cause there will be. Certainly, that’s not a problem in the US right now to find people who feel the opposite of everybody.


18:18 EL: But it’s a great exercise to realize that there are really smart people out there, are standing on both sides, but the smartest people kinda stand in the middle and see all the sides that there are to see.

18:29 MH: I love the idea of being aware of multiple sides and multiple styles. But…

18:40 EL: I knew there was a but.

18:41 MH: Well, and we…

18:42 EL: That’s good. I mean we got to get back to practical things, right? I mean it’s a good intellectual conversation but you gotta have some tools you can walk away with, so go there.

18:51 MH: Well, but you… Everything we’re talking about is… In theory, this can be an issue when you’ve got or you’re working on something by yourself. And if you’re tasked with getting something done and you’re off dreaming about the future in non-practical terms, that’s a problem. But the reality is, it is what is the role? What is the team dynamic? And it’s gonna be super, super rare to have everybody on the team kind of introspecting.

19:17 MH: I guess that’s when the team does an offsite and has a Myers-Briggs professional come in. [chuckle] Maybe in the moment, they’re kind of introspecting. But from the reality, and there’s a little bit of what you’ve already said, find the role that fits. I think there’s probably a part that says find the team where you feel like it’s a fit. There’s a little bit of, “Oh, if you’re an HR executive, or a manager, building an organization, take this into account.” But what about that lone analyst who sort of knows there’s a certain level of understand myself better and that’s Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder. “Hey, I’m generally X, Y, Z. I personally, my dream is to manage a large team of people, not.”


20:11 MH: It’s one of the, “Michael do that.” What’s kind of the wisdom to say, “Ah, I am becoming more enlightened.” The people around me, I’m not gonna be able to force them to become enlightened. Like you had the one example of saying, “Hey, can we try this this other way?” And maybe they’ll say yes, in which case maybe you can move them. Maybe they say no, in which case you’re probably not gonna move them. Where do you sort of see the way to be a little guerilla and tactical about figuring out ways to not spend an enormous amount of your energy trying to meet people more than halfway? People who aren’t trying. They don’t even recognize they’re supposed to meeting you somewhere. They’re just doing their thing and you’re having to go all the way over to their camp. What’s the… Leave. Leave is one option which I actually agree is a totally valid option. What else is there?

21:06 EL: Yeah. And you shouldn’t leave in a hurry. But chart the course, do something intelligent. I think if you do leave, you’re gonna try to fit yourself first to the problem, second to the team. If you’re well suited to solving the problem, chances are you’ll be able to generate content and insight that is motivating even an imperfect team. If you go to the perfect team and have a problem fit issue, that’s catastrophic. And if you go to the perfect team and have a problem fit, the team would change within six months [chuckle] So that is something to look out for. And then we, of course, talked about charting a course to change people.

21:42 EL: I think the third option is if the types of problems that you’re working on are large, it makes a lot of sense to start recruiting a network of people that you’ve become really well connected with. This is something that I actually did at Adobe because the organization was definitely structured well to execute. But it was structured… In structuring it really well to execute, there were some structural challenges with how to think about broad problems that span lots of the different products and span lots of different areas. And I worked with some colleagues to create an organization that we called RoundTable. And what’s cool about the premise of RoundTable is that as a table is round, there’s no head of the table. There’s no power represented at RoundTable.

22:30 TW: Those were people who you had picked up on as being kinda wired in the similar way or in the right way for what you were trying to do. And how did you actually go and figure out, “We’re gonna form this thing called RoundTable?” What approval, authority did you need? How did you select people? How did you recruit people? How did it actually work?

22:54 EL: Yeah. I did it strictly as a social thing. The intent was or the hypothesis was, when we started this thing, was if you get people who love to solve problems and love what I would just kinda characterize as larger mental models. So there’s some people when they go to talk about a problem or think about a problem, they employ a really local model. A very small model with very few inputs in terms of how… If you’re just were to kinda say a financial model or a statistical model or something, you get the concept where some models are so basic that they overreact to certain stimuli and don’t even acknowledge other ones.

23:31 EL: So it’s the same concept with how people think about their work. There are lots of people who have really tight models about the meaning of their work and there are other people have much more expansive mental models. The thinking was, if we get people who have these more global views of the problem set and bring them together, we could just simply show a problem up to the entire room, which is about 30 people, and people would begin immediately having productive conversation.

24:01 EL: And we’ve brought people in from Product Management, Product Marketing, Engineering, XD, Architecture, Finance, Operation. It was all over the company. And the intent was that there were… I kept kind of hearing about things that people wanted to do. And the question was, “Okay, how are we gonna build alignment on that? How are we gonna build consensus on that?” And I was thinking, “Well, if we just establish this thing as a social deal and start to look at these types of problems, then we would be prepared for conversations that would be happening in our daily work. Once a quarter, we would meet and talk through some of these things that were the hairier, more interconnected issues that would be easier to address outside of the org structure.

24:45 TW: Very specifically, you said 30 people, once a quarter. You had a conference room reserved. This was during the day? And when you say social, but it wasn’t like it was a, who picked who those, was it you? Was it you and three or four other people? How did you… I can see that when you had it, it could be… Well, I could see that maybe some people were saying, “Fuck. I have another meeting to go to. What the hell is Evan doing?” Which may mean that’s not the right kinda person for the room. But I think, that getting a team that is not formally just sub, sub, sub Department X of Executive Y has a lot of potential. But how do you actually do that? It was an expensive meeting once a quarter.

25:28 TW: Those 30 people for an hour, an hour and a half. How did you actually go about formulating who would be on it? Did you have to talk to each of the people upfront? Or did you just, did some people just get a blind invite that was to, quarterly RoundTable. How did that actually work?

25:48 EL: It’s a great question. Actually, you mentioned it’s an expensive meeting. It actually is an immensely inexpensive meeting because you drive…

25:58 TW: Oh, lifetime cost versus…

26:01 EL: No. You’re driving… I would watch people… Let me address the first part of your question first. There are a lot of people… My new business is about teaching companies how to become innovative. And the thing that’s really important for these companies to understand is that there are people pushing really hard for innovation already. And it’s like when you go up on a hike and you see this tree growing out of a rock, and you’re like, “How in the hell is a tree growing out of a rock?”

26:28 EL: That’s what innovation is like at lots of companies. They’re trying so hard. And you know there’s always that park ranger who’s like, “There shouldn’t be a tree growing out of a rock.” And they come and chop that mother f-er down. And you’re like, “Dude, that tree has conquered the odds and you came along with that saw and cut it down.” And that’s what’s going on in these companies. These people are easy to identify ’cause they’re pushing. They have really good ideas and you just go have lunch with them. And some of them are crazy and some of them are incredibly brilliant.

27:01 EL: And you sit down that lunch or after meeting, you spent five minutes with somebody and say, “You’ve mentioned something. Tell me a little bit more about that.” And you’ll realize, some people just really have a super firm grasp on what’s going on. I’ve been fortunate to be in this industry for a long time so I’ve gotten to see lots of things. And it’s very evident to me when either more experienced people or even more junior people just kinda got the quan, you know the Jerry Maguire quan. It starts with that.

27:29 EL: In terms of it being expensive, I was watching these people present in 10, or 20, or 30 meetings over the course of three or four quarters to try to educate people around the organization on, “Here’s something that the customers are struggling with,” or, “Here’s something that we’re hearing when we do cab,” or, “Here’s something… ” etcetera. And you’d watch thousands of hours get burned trying to drive some semblance of organizational alignment. The efficiency of this meeting comes from the idea that there are people who want to align others to them. There are others who kind of want to be aligned to others.

28:08 EL: And we wanted to get the people who are most open-minded, wanna get in psychological terms, the most modern kind of popular psyche theories are called the “Big Five”. And one of the Big Five is called “openness”. That’s the idea for brand new ideas, brand new information. People who are high in openness are really productive in this kinda context. We get together, we’d present these problems, we discuss them. We’d get inter-departmental organizational cross-product, cross-function alignment and agreement on these things.

28:38 EL: And what’s actually most frustrating for everybody involved was that we’d end the meeting and people would say, “Okay, what do we do next?” We solved all these problems and I would have to tell them, “You can’t do anything next.” And they would get really, really pissed. And I said, “Because we’re not here for a coup. We’re not here to fight the organization. We’re here to help the organization.” And if we explode out of this room with all sorts of ninja attacks with the lines in the background like anime kinda thing, that’s gonna be really rough for everybody involved. “So let’s do this. Let’s agree that we’ve discussed some really interesting opportunities and ways to solve customer issues across lots of different ideas. And then let’s go out to our organization and let’s let these ideas come up naturally.”

29:25 EL: And when they do, we’ll start to address the connections that have been built. Again, not necessarily immediately, but to say, “Hey, you know what? I think we can build some alignment here. Can you give me a week to go connect the dots?” And the truth is, that’s not a dishonest thing to do. It’s actually when the conversation comes up later in another meeting, it’s gonna be a little different. You do need that week to kinda prepare. But what’s cool is when you come back a week later to present what you’ve learned to everybody, everybody’s ready to hear it. So you’re not saying, “Oh, that thing you say is impossible. I already solved it. Here’s the solution, dummy face.”


29:58 EL: You’re saying, “No, that is really complicated.” You’re kind of acknowledging the struggle and then you’re bringing a solution back. And you’re doing that because, from the social perspective, from an alignment perspective, you have these really valuable relationships all throughout the organization. It was designed to build relationships, it was designed to say, “The org is great for a certain type of question and a certain type of operation and sometimes the org itself can create challenges in solving broader needs.” Of course, from Adobe’s customer base, some of the needs cut horizontally across a lot of these products. That’s a very big deal for them and there’s a lot of incredibly brilliant people solving for that right now.

30:43 MK: I just wanna talk a little bit about my own experience because we actually have a very similar meeting, which I actually have later today. And it’s become, for a lot of people involved, a source of dread now, where you feel like it’s really unproductive. It can go off in tangents. A lot of the times, the product managers that are in the room get quite frustrated because they feel like it ends up being kind of decisioned by majority voting rather than the product manager is designing their strategy. At one stage, we had an iteration of the same thing.

31:22 MK: So basically, it was a group of people across the company to solve customer pain points. That was how it started. Then it became like a task list. Everyone is in their cross functional teams, you have all this stuff to do. Suddenly, you go to this extra meeting and there’s all this stuff that needs to be done out of it and it just ends up being like an extra burden.

31:43 MK: Or the opposite, where nothing happens from it, and then people go, “Why am I spending an hour a month in this if nothing’s actually gonna come of it?” What you’ve been talking about is actually really interesting. And from what it sounds, my takeaway from this is, if you’re gonna do this, there needs to be some really strong leadership. Because however this is growing, whether you want it to be organically and you go and share the ideas or if you want it to be a lot more practical and task-related. I don’t know. For it to really work and people not to be frustrated, it does need leadership from somewhere, which maybe, I don’t know if that completely disrupts the whole idea of a RoundTable where you don’t really have a leader. I don’t know.

32:27 EL: Yeah. I mean I had two things going for me with the Adobe thing. Number one, just the number of incredibly smart people there made things a little easier. And number two, the ability for the group of people who were the facilitators to handpick and rotate people and keep things fresh and relevant was a huge advantage. When an organization kinda creates a task force and then throws people onto that fire, number one, a lot of times, they’re doing that because there’s something on fire.

32:56 EL: And that’s already… [chuckle] That’s already, circumstantially, a tough environment to solve problems inside of because they’re probably gonna throw… If they’re choosing people, they’re gonna throw firefighters into that room and sometimes precisely what you don’t need to solve a big problem is a firefighter. Sometimes you have to let the building burn down and focus on the next building that hasn’t caught on fire yet rather than running all over the city trying to figure out how to keep up. It can be really, really challenging, which is why I think, from an analyst perspective, going around and forging these relationships with product management, with XD, potentially with engineering, etcetera, and just do that informally. And maybe start with five people and meet for lunch or for coffee and don’t add cost burden to the organization until you feel like you really got something going.

33:47 EL: But just talk about, “Guys, we have been talking at the organization level about this problem for this many months. How are we gonna make a difference?” It’s amazing to me how many people… I mean the joke is about the definition of insanity, trying the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result. But we see this everyday in our culture and we certainly see this everyday at work that people keep trying the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

34:12 EL: It doesn’t work to use an organization that is operations-centric to solve problems. It is not designed for problem solving. It’s designed for execution. If you wanna solve a problem, it’s more productive to say, “Okay, what is the problem?” And in going back to that mental model’s idea, you often have to expand your model first to understand the problem. There’s a quote about Einstein saying, “If you give me an hour to save the world, I’ll spend the first 45 minutes understanding the problem and the last 15 solving the problem.” I went and researched the quote to make sure it was real and it’s not, but [laughter] it doesn’t really matter. It may have been conversational or something like that but most of the research kinda suggests he didn’t really say that.

35:00 EL: But somebody really smart did say that. And it’s true. Abraham Lincoln feels the same way, he said, “If you give me six hours to chop down a tree, I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” When lots and lots of really smart people talk about the amount of preparation before action, it’s a pretty good idea to think about that that’s been really consistent with the brilliant creators of our world, almost always. There are very few brilliant creators of our world who had six hours to chop down a tree and just started karate chopping the tree with their feet and hands and were successful. And you see that a lot in business and in life that you say, “We gotta chop that tree down,” and before you even get the sentence out of your mouth, people are going and biting the tree and ripping at it with their bare hands. And you’re like, “Oh my God, people, that’s not how you cut down a tree.”


35:51 TW: I concur. I feel like that… You just kinda nailed that from a, “Hey. The CMO said X and so I’m not gonna stop and process at all. I’m just… The CMO said X, so I’m gonna go start doing. And then I’m just gonna draw that direct link, as opposed to one step back, take a deep breath.” And I feel like analysts, we run into that a ton where, “I need this data point.” “Why?” “Because executive X wants it,” or, “Because I have literally found one path to connect those dots.” Yeah, absolute PTSD.

36:26 MH: Yeah. A is for effort stopped being given out right around middle management. [chuckle] Yeah, hopefully, in most organizations. [chuckle] One thing that’s really been percolating for me, as we are talking and discussing this, Evan, is I find that there are relatively few people who walk into an organization with an awareness, or being awake to what they need to do, to do what you’re describing. How would you advice people in terms of creating more mental awareness to how to understand the dynamics of their own organization, and then how they can positively maneuver in that?

37:17 MH: And I know it’s pretty generic, so I don’t know that you’ll come up with anything really like specific, but how does somebody wake up to this? Because I don’t find a lot of people who are really spending time being like, “How do I drive to another strategic level?” It just sort of wake up, I go to work, and things happen, somebody tells me what to do and I go home.

37:39 EL: I thought the question was gonna be easier. [chuckle] No, it’s really good.


37:44 TW: I feel like Rusty got the same question on our last episode.

37:48 EL: I was told the question would be… That’s a good question, and it’s right on. It depends on what level of control you have to affect change in the organization in terms of how you answer the question. One thing that’s really great, that people can be proactive about at all levels is the psychological buddy system. And that is for people to just say, “Okay, if I’m this type of person… ” So say, you’re Myers-Briggs, and you’d come out INTJ. Well, you need to go find somebody who can help you understand how people feel. You need to go find somebody who can help you understand not how to interpret what is seen, but what is unseen. There’s a great quote, I think it’s Arthur Schopenhauer who said, “Talent hits targets no one else can hit, genius hits targets no one else can see.” And it so perfectly captures what I think is a much more meaningful definition of genius. Genius doesn’t mean that you’re super duper intelligent, although it doesn’t hurt. But if you can see what other people can’t see, and it’s accurate, it’s very valuable.

38:56 EL: And one of the things that’s really easy to act on, when you have StrengthsFinder or Myers-Briggs, or whatever, it’s telling you what you can see really well, and it’s telling you what you can’t see really well. Go find somebody who can see what you can’t. They make great spouses, they make great business partners, they make great all sorts of stuff. And they should help you see the world through a completely different lens and you’ll have conversations with them, and you’ll walk away after 15 minutes of saying, “I’m struggling with this. I’m not getting anywhere,” and they’ll tell you something, and you go like, just total mind explosion. That is a super easy thing to implement. Sometimes, it’s hard to create willingness in certain types of people to go do that, but if you just say, “Give it a shot.”

39:41 EL: Particularly, Michael, you lead teams to encourage people on your team to do this, and then give them the sense of comfort that that’s a good use of their time, then they’ll do that. If you’re in a position to control the organization really broadly, yeah, you need to build culture. What I tell companies when we’re talking about innovation is to build cultures of dogma. And what that means is, you create dogmatic ideas that are two-sided value stories, in a sense. Chick-fil-A is a really good example of this that they say, “We want people to want to come more often, want to tell their friends, and be willing to pay full price”, or be eager, whatever, to pay full price.

40:23 EL: And the idea of somebody wanting to come more often, you can’t instill that desire in somebody else without providing value to them. It’s brilliant. If they come more often, it’s impossible for revenue to not go up. And what’s also brilliant, is this is applicable for every single role in the organization. If you are making the sandwiches in the kitchen, and your charter for the company is increase revenue and reduce cost, you’re probably gonna make a super shitty sandwich. But if your charter is make people want to come more often, you’re gonna make a great sandwich.

40:58 EL: If you’re mopping the floors, if you’re running the cash register, if you’re opening the door, running the drive through line, everybody gets it. And when you have that two-sided value in place, which very few companies identify something that gives them value that also gives the customers value, it becomes very easy to manage conflict. Conflict will always occur in business. When people say, “I disagree. We should do it that way”, and you bring up to them, “Well, okay, how is that gonna reconcile with this idea?” The right side of that conversation will usually win. Or if you have to escalate that conversation, then it’s gonna go the right way, hopefully. I don’t know if that really answers your question thoroughly enough, but it’s a couple ways where you can put some meat on the bone.

41:43 MH: No, I like that.

41:44 MK: I actually love talking about this stuff so much. I’m just thinking about the Chick-fil-A example, because one of the things that I’ve learned about myself is that the values of a company, actually are really important to me. When I’m looking for a place to work, I realize that’s probably one of the most important things for me. I’m just thinking about the context of, you have this really tangible value, but what happens when everyone doesn’t buy into it? What happens if you do have the person who is, I don’t know, at the register, who goes, “Actually, I think revenue’s more important than make people come back more?”

42:20 MK: How do you work with that or is that the time when you just go, “Actually… ” As a manager or as a person in your company that you go, “Actually, I just need to call it quit.” So would you try and work around that and get them to see why people coming back more often is a good thing for the company?

42:36 EL: Yeah. Again, if you’re kind of in control of the culture of the business or of the operations, then you wanna make that person feel a little uncomfortable. If you’re their peer, that’s a little more challenging. And if you’re a peer to that and it doesn’t get resolved and you really think that it should, and that’s kinda systemic, then it’s time to go. There are too many fish in the sea and that company has to maybe learn the hard way. And that’s not to say you shouldn’t try but I’m guessing by the way you’ve asked the question that you kind of already tried by that point.

43:10 EL: I don’t think anybody’s gonna walk in a week in and say, “This person’s not doing the right thing. I’m outta here.” I think most people, particularly in our industry, have faced enough adversity with what they’re trying to do to realize, “Okay, I’m gonna have to put some elbow grease into selling somebody on this concept.” And yeah, if things… One thing that’s always bewildered me is, why more analysts don’t become designers and product managers and things like that. Because at some point, you’ve gotta say, “Okay, this isn’t resonating. Can I just be that so that I can make those decisions and I can see things come to life in the real world.”

43:49 EL: And those roles aren’t for everybody, that’s for sure, but analysts are very valuable in those roles because they understand the value of the data. But very importantly, for those roles, as we’ve seen in our careers in the past, they understand the ramifications of asking a question. [chuckle] And that is really valuable in these production roles, where you’re building things and shipping things. When you go to an analyst and you say, “Hey, I wanna know something about this.”

44:18 EL: If you actually know what it is that you just asked for, that is really valuable to that organization. You can ask better questions, you can teach your peers to ask better questions, you can have a much better dialogue between the two, you can start uniting those functions between marketing, product management, design, etcetera. There’s really something to that. I think you can always start with these big ideas but you can get down to really tactical execution, it’s very realistic and has impact. But yeah, if the organization, if people don’t do the right thing, then it’s pretty clear to you that their culture is just on the wall and not in people’s minds. It needs to be real.

44:58 MH: Man, this is good! And we started of singing the blues, but actually, I think there’s some really positive things that happened in this conversation. And as always, on the show, we never get to the depth we really wanna go. But this has been awesome. One of the things we do on the show is we like to go around the horn and do a last call. It’s just something we find interesting that we’ve seen recently or we’re excited about that’s coming up in the near future. Evan, you’re our guest. Do you have a last call that you wanna share?

45:33 EL: Yeah, I do. I think this is interesting for people who want to understand other people at scale. I stumbled across a psychology professor in Toronto by the name of Jordan B. Peterson. And he is a really, really brilliant mind in making psychology really practical for people. He has a YouTube channel and inside that channel there’s a course that he taught where they recorded the classroom, the lectures, and it’s called “Maps of Meaning”. It’s basically, how do you understand how people build belief systems, and why they stick to their beliefs, and the way they behave within those beliefs. Now, disclaimer, Jordan is a somewhat controversial figure. He’s a very staunch free speech rights kind of activist and there have been a few run-ins with the law as a result.

46:27 EL: Don’t take this as a no strings attached endorsement of Jordan himself, but I do think, honestly, watching several hours of Jordan is potentially life-changing for some people out there, especially if going into the world every morning, as your door closes behind you, really leaves you confused and frustrated, he’s really, really helpful with that.

46:50 MH: Nice. Moe, what about you?

46:53 MK: I have two last calls today, although I feel like Evan’s stolen my thunder a bit because mine’s also on YouTube. But there’s a video that I’ve seen around the traps a few times and one of the things we wanted to talk about today that we didn’t get time to talk about is about empathy. And there is a video, and I’m not good with the French, people, so you’ll have to forgive me. But Brené Brown has a video on empathy and it’s like three minutes or something. It’s literally takes almost no time, but for me, it’s one of those videos that’s just really… I don’t know, it makes the point come home really nicely.

47:30 MK: And I really recommend checking it out, so we’ll include that in the show notes. The other one, and Evan might have some thoughts on this, because we started talking a little bit about innovation, I actually, over the summer holidays, because here it’s been summer, I read a book by Adam Grant called “Originals”. And it’s all about how anyone can really innovate and be a creative person and I guess some tools to help you do that. I read that over the summer break and I thought it was amazing. So, yeah, if you feel like picking up a book, it’s a good one.

48:02 MH: Nice. Wait, did you say that Brené Brown was French?

48:07 MK: I don’t know, but she’s got a… There’s an accent on the name, to me, that implies it’s probably French, or a French-ish name.

48:13 MH: I think she’s from Texas.

48:14 MK: Okay, well, then she’s just classy.


48:18 MH: But I am a huge fan of Brené Brown.

48:20 MK: Oh good.

48:22 MH: What about you, Tim? At the risk of you stealing my…

48:26 TW: Well, in South East Texas there are Cajuns, who are really Acadians who came from French Canada.

48:30 MH: Oh, so [48:30] ____.

48:32 TW: So it’s possible that she’s a Coonass, as we call it, but I don’t know. I’ll have to research. I will go with an audio rather than a YouTube video, but it’s also somewhat topical. This was from last month, so Hidden Brain, which in the digital analytics circle it’s a podcast that people seem to kind of like, Shankar Vedantam of NPR. But there was an episode called the Sorting Hat, where at first, I thought it was gonna be completely slamming personality tests, and then it came back and said, “No, maybe they’re not that bad.” And then it came back and they basically sort of talk through both sides, one of hitting on Myers-Briggs, but it had people who said Myers-Briggs ruined their lives and people who said Myers-Briggs made me the person I am today. Kind of an interesting somewhat unbiased view, painting both extremes, but seemed like a good last call for this topic. Michael, what do you have?

49:34 MH: You didn’t steal mine this time, so that’s a relief. My last call is a little bit silly, but it’ll make sense in a minute. Coming up pretty soon is Adobe Summit, which probably a fair number of our listeners will attend. And at that event, you will not hear a lot of discussion very similar to what we just described on the show. It’ll be more about the products and all those kinds of things, but if you…

50:05 TW: There’s a RoundTable going on right now about how they should be overhauling the…

50:09 MH: No. Yeah, maybe so. The RoundTable continues…

50:10 TW: Other than that, the RoundTable shifted for the whole [50:12] ____ of the summit.

50:15 MH: No, but one of my goals… So I go to Adobe Summit every year, but one of my goals this year is to get a chance to meet with people I don’t normally get a chance to talk to. And so, if you’re a listener of the show and you’d like to spend some time just chatting about even this topic, or about your Adobe DTM to launch conversion, if you wanna get down to those kinda tactical things, I’d certainly love to meet up with you. But I’m looking forward to Adobe Summit this year but I’m making some goals to try to meet some people I’ve not met before, and get a chance to make some new friends, so that’s my last call.

50:53 EL: Well, and I will say on summit the theme for the last few years has been this idea of experiences. And that is like a form of empathy, that is that two-sided dogma.

51:05 MH: That’s true.

51:05 EL: As analysts kinda position themselves to teach the organization how to quantify a two-sided idea, that’s really really valuable. Give that some thought. And the other thing on the empathy thing, since we didn’t get to it, the CliffsNotes on that are, empathy is just the ability to step into a different set of shoes. And don’t think about it as emotional where you have to cry sitting next to somebody for an hour. If you can’t step into somebody else’s shoes, that is a form of dysfunction. You have to close that gap. And I would be happy on Twitter or wherever to have a conversation with somebody about that.

51:41 MH: And you think, “Hey, I don’t know if these guys have empathy for my situation.” Why don’t you try us out and we would love to hear from you. Evan is active on Twitter. We’re also available to you on the Measure Slack. Also on our webpage, we’d love to hear from you also on Facebook. It’s a new year, and so we’re doing this thing where I talk about each episode asking you to just drive off the road right now, and go on to iTunes and submit a review.


52:18 MH: Or don’t…

52:19 TW: Drive off the road slowly.

[overlapping conversation]

52:25 MH: No, don’t drive off the road but we do wanna ask you, some of our listeners, all of our listeners if you don’t mind doing a review on iTunes. Thank you for doing that. We really appreciate it. Anyway, Evan, this has been a really great conversation. I really loved having you on the show. It’s so overdue and so thanks for doing it. I’m really excited for what you’re doing now in this space around innovation, so I’m sure there’s more exciting things to come. And for my two co-hosts and all of you listening out there, never stop analyzing.


53:07 S1: Thanks for listening. And don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Measure Slack group. We welcome your comments and questions. Visit us on the web @analyticshour.io, facebook.com/analyticshour, or @AnalyticsHour on Twitter.


53:27 S?: So smart guys want to fit in so they made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work.


53:33 MH: Okay, so Moe, would you say you got the analytics blues?

53:38 S?: Yeah.

53:39 MH: I’ll play it right there so just stop after you say the analytics blues.

53:42 S?: Yep, okay.

53:44 MH: And I’ll play it there.


53:46 MH: Perfect. All right, I’ll do a five count, in five…

53:49 TW: What’s wrong with where you’re at? It looks just fine. Oh, you’re in bed? Are you in bed?


53:54 MK: This is legitimately.

53:56 EL: Everything was fine until that pillow popped up.


54:02 S?: Actually, the icon for this show that you guys do is supportive of my greatest hobby which is drinking.

54:10 MK: Oh, I was gonna be like, “Where is he going with this?” [chuckle]

54:13 S?: Yeah, I started doing that at two PM today.

54:16 TW: See, that’s living the startup life.

54:20 MK: You two are in cahoots.

54:22 TW: We are in cahoots.

54:24 MK: Wait, what? It’s morning here. I haven’t drunk yet, and I’m only like this much into my coffee.


54:35 TW: Okay. Why should we…

54:38 S?: What the hell…

54:39 TW: That’s duly noted.

54:42 MK: Shit.

54:43 MH: It’s hard to capture all that you have done over the years.

54:49 S?: Yeah, and if I don’t see anything in there about the tennis championship…

54:52 MH: We’re not gonna put that in there.


54:56 MH: I’m actually incredibly horrible at tennis.

55:00 MK: I should just cancel my 11 o’clock meeting now, right?

55:03 TW: Look, it is not easy to build a product like Link and then rebrand it as Skype and have people think [chuckle] that maybe it’s actually a functional product.

55:16 MH: Yes, Tim, Monty Python.


55:21 MH: Okay, thanks, Tim.


55:39 MH: Oh, yeah.

55:41 TW: That’s impressive with a lag.

55:43 MH: That’s perfect. Thank you. Alright.


55:49 MH: Rock, Flag, and Innovation.

3 Responses

  1. Egor says:

    Hello! I’m web analyst form Belarus and I want to say thank you very much for all the podcasts! I’m listening to the podcasts for 1,5 year and you help me very much in my job! Measure slack is super cool community! And also thank you for the “Referenced in the Episode” section it’s super useful!
    What all of you do is very important!

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