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2017 – Creativity and Curiosity – Using Data Harambee’ously

2017 – Creativity and Curiosity – Using Data Harambee’ously

By Natasja Beyleveld

With more data readily available, the guess factor in process management and the reliance on influential networks for growth and prosperity has diminished. With knowledge comes change in ideology, and the shape of social norms some have grown comfortable with. The thumb-suck approach to ‘strategic implementation’ is now more easily proved porous, and there is no magic ‘copy and paste’ resolution to either business, political, economic or social challenges in Namibia.

A fact often encountered, and not uniquely Namibian, is that data is misunderstood (or misinterpreted, underutilised, misrepresented) even at executive level, or there is a lack of appreciation for using data to implement strategic changes.

Modern age has given us two gifts; more data and knowledge (that you did not ‘grow up with’), but also a lot less time to process and use it. The age of instant gratification, and of needing an answer in the next five minutes – have given us impatient audiences, and ‘jumping jack’ answers.

When you base your decisions on good data, you’re more confident in the decision-making process. You are more equipped to evaluate the implementation phase. And you are urged to act; facts create a sense of urgency.

Data is the future of our children; as important as acquiring social skills and knowledge, our children will have to become more data savvy; equipped with tools for analysis and graphical representation and interpretation. We need to ‘find the maths’ behind our answers again, remaining relevant in the way our answers needs be digested. Information is increasingly being consumed differently. Creativity is not an option, but required in order to provoke curiosity, and stimulate (help act out) change.

Good decisions should not resemble marketing’s reliance on ‘word on street’ , ‘word of mouth’, peer influence, or the next popular trend. Living in the moment, chasing the next deadline, obliging to the first next request – this does not paint the bigger picture, nor does it bring about change.

Namibia’s leaders will have a challenge continued throughout 2017. Our media (traditional, tra-digital) do not respond on every invitation, call for press conference, or story.

2017 calls for reports (and presentations) that use good data, analyse the data, and contribute to social intelligence, change, and participation – with confidence. This task is not only that of the country’s economists.

Can we show the dollar, can we wear the pants for the promise? Can we show the alignment to national economic objectives in our actions, and our product outcome without it needing be said for confirmation.

Old school PR professionals advocate for key message repetition as the best way to cement beliefs about your organisation during the reputation management process. We still need to ask whether those key messages are relevant (why, how), and how we can tell the actual story without ‘putting that link’ on the page every time.

Hypothetically; if I hear my boss saying daily that my company aligns with the HPP (Harambee Prosperity Plan) but I do not see it, I do not understand it, and I do not participate in it – the reputation of the concept becomes tarnished in my world. Not only does it affect my perception of the reputation of the company that I work for, but also of the government that created and enforces the ideal.

The task here is for leaders to ensure that employees are also fully equipped with the necessary data, and that it has been processed in a way they can digest it and still ‘make it their own’.

Are we talking to 20 year olds, are we talking to technicians, architects, accountants, lawyers, social workers, contractors – and have we translated our data and vision to a language and context that they understand?

If we want to be ‘birds of a feather’; we have to sing to birds of many feathers.

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A Guest Contributor is any of a number of experts who contribute articles and columns under their own respective names. They are regarded as authorities in their disciplines, and their work is usually published with limited editing only. They may also contribute to other publications. - Ed.