OPINION11 January 2021

Stop, collaborate and listen

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Covid-19 Data analytics Impact Opinion UK

James Oates, UK analytics director at Nielsen, writes about the necessity of collaboration.

Collaboration working together ideas jigsaw_crop

Stop, collaborate and listen. Vanilla Ice song lyrics are – admittedly – a strange source for inspiring leadership qualities, but the notion of collaboration and listening to ideas is so important to what we do in analytics. For our industry, I believe collaborating and listening are the essential elements in how we work, ensuring we get the best out of what we do. Collaboration allows us to unlock the opportunity to connect our data assets and, most importantly, provide combined thinking that will lead to great analytic results.

After my last article, I had a few readers contact me to discuss how finding ways to work together has never been more important given the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves. That feedback, and the current economic backdrop, got me thinking about what we need to have in place to drive the best of our analytic community through collaboration.

Everyone sees collaboration differently, but, for me, it is about some basic principles: bringing together diverse thinking and a willingness to be open, and to see the bigger potential of what connecting can bring. If we can deliver on these – and continue to do so as our respective industries face the issue of Covid-19 – we can still produce great analytic outcomes.

Diversity in where we draw our thinking from is essential if we are to maximise our creativity and impact. Contacting emerging organisations, listening to innovative ideas and finding new talent coming through academia will ensure a freshness to our ways of working, and ensure we are challenging the status quo. This is vital if we are to improve on the strong analytic foundations that are in place. We must create a positive energy around the great work we do in analytics and shout about new approaches that will ensure we draw in a diverse slate of fresh-thinking analysts and companies in the future.

We need to maintain a network of open-minded people who are willing to share ideas and look to develop them. There are great champions of this. I always look to attend the MRS analytics conference because it is an example of how organisations are willing to share their thinking for others to follow. It demonstrates a confidence that what is being shared is just one part of the story for those organisations, and that they are already on to the next big question and opportunity. We can all aspire to that.

The ability to see something different and bigger is vital for our sector. At times, we all need to face a business question with a new approach or creative thinking that requires us to go beyond our own data assets. Data-led analytics can deliver the right answers to these questions when we are open to connecting data and harnessing new approaches. I have observed this freedom of thinking in hackathons during my time working in media analytics – analysts looking to find the answer to an immediate question and then building on that to get to the next challenge. This positive, broad-thinking mindset represents the best in collaboration and can deliver great results.

There will always be commercial barriers to collaboration, but if we can avoid siloed thinking and create an environment that brings this thinking together, we can ensure the analytics sector is set up for great success.

Like many others, I am missing the ability to meet face to face and connect over a coffee, but the past few months have shown that we can keep the connectivity flowing and that our work networks can still flourish. I have continued to meet new and emerging companies, and am now developing work with some of them. That is how we will show the power of collaboration and maintain the voice of analytics in these testing times.

This article was first published in the October 2020 issue of Impact.