FEATURE18 September 2014

Cracking the company code


More than a third of C-suite executives surveyed by research and consulting firm McKinsey & Company in 2012 predicted that successfully leveraging big data, along with mobile, social and cloud computing, would boost their operating profits by 10% in just three years. Many business leaders have expressed a firm belief that big data, and the ability to make sense of it, has the ability to transform their businesses and industries.


But that transformation needn’t just be down to addressing tasks with an external focus, such as understanding and targeting customers. According to Leerom Segal, Aaron Goldstein, Jay Goldman and Rahaf Farhoush, founders of ‘digital health’ agency Klick, and joint authors of the book, The Decoded Company, internal practices can see just as much benefit from big data.

In The Decoded Company, the entrepreneurial quartet describe how technology and data can help business leaders to know their talent – or employees – better than they know their customers. The book promises to help readers learn how to “make more informed decisions, execute faster, operate with less bureaucracy, drive higher engagement and eliminate surprises”.

The theory behind their thinking was borne from two interrelated acts: the implementation of an IT-support-style ticketing system at Klick, which tracked individually assigned tasks; and the subsequent banning of internal email.  These events, the authors say, led them to discover new insights into how their company was running. They could see, for example, the number of tickets that were created by a specific department or an individual, and the average time it would take to complete a particular type of task.

By studying these patterns they claim to have been able to read their team’s “digital body language”; to identify the patterns of behaviour that led to success, and those that led to problems. Taking this further, they defined the next stage of data evolution: “data superpowers”. What Segal describes as a “data-powered sixth sense”, can, according to the book, give everyone in an organisation an awareness of the entire organisation beyond their immediate realm.

The Decoded model

Segal et al encourage companies that want to become ‘decoded’ to take on board the following three principles:

Technology as a coach and trainer

This principle is based around encouraging companies to use data and systems to transform technology into a coach, rather than as a referee: “Instead of yelling ‘offside’ after something happened, you could predictively anticipate the issue with an early detection system and instead use these moments as the best opportunity to coach and inspire.”

Data as a sixth sense

The second principle hinges on using the data-rich environment to inform intuition and make better decisions. This is described as knowing “how to instrument your team or organisation to capture ambient data and then to analyse it to identify patterns of behaviour that can help you predict outcomes”.

Engineered ecosystems

The last principle embraces “the new digital social norms” of transparency, connectedness and community. Driving the principle is a challenge to business leaders to “understand the role that technology has in shaping culture and breaking down preconceived ideas about how control is shared”.