Gary Cokins is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author…
Television game and quiz shows, like Jeopardy, are now in abundance. I have an idea for a game show that probably would not achieve high viewer ratings, but it might be appealing to those interested in how truth is proven with analytics, research and fact-based data.
True or false? Good or bad?
My idea is for a game show where three competing teams of contestants are given a business problem involving choices. They are given one week to design and test their hypotheses through experiments and return to the show with their answers. A panel of CEOs would judge the winning team.
Before I provide a few examples of business problems for this game, I will explain how this idea popped into my mind. Although I am not a university professor or PhD, for the past 15 years I’ve attended an annual conference with about 300 professors. The majority of the conference’s sessions are parallel tracks where PhD candidates and faculty present their research findings. It is part of the publish-or-perish world that academics live in. The process is fascinating. Each researcher has 20 minutes to present his or her problem, hypothesis, tests and findings. Next, an older and seasoned faculty member has five minutes to critique the paper as the “discussant.” The final five minutes is for questions and answers. There are three papers presented each 90 minutes – it’s very intense for everyone attending the session.
The research topics vary widely, such as how to determine the correlation of CEO compensation incentives with the company’s financial performance and the presence of bias in in a manager’s performance evaluation of subordinate employees.
Game on! Sample business problems
- The marketing function is becoming more scientific in determining which types of customer microsegments are more attractive to retain, grow, win back and acquire customers, and how much to optimally spend on each customer type with deals, offers, discounts and marketing campaigns. Increasingly, measures of customer profitability and customer lifetime value (CLV) – not only sales volume – are accepted as the means to make the determination. However, the growth of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogs) is revealing that some customers have large followings and might influence the purchasing behavior of others. Test question: Is it worth the marketers’ effort to spend extra time with these influencers to induce positive messages from them even if the influencer has low profit lift potential?
- Capitalizing on impulsive customer behavior is an opportunity to increase sales. In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Dan Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, he describes an observation that people buy more cans of soup in a grocery store when there is a sign on the display that says "Limit 12 per customer." Test question: In which other industries might this ploy work best? Rank the industries.
- Psychologists observe that rather than shaping an individual’s behavior with fines (e.g., a traffic ticket) or punishment (e.g., grounding children who fail to clean their bedrooms), rewarding good behavior with positive reinforcement may work better. Test question: Assume that software engineers who support salespeople anonymously grade and score the salesperson following each sales call. The salespeople scoring in the top X percent will receive an additional cash bonus. What should be the percent cutoff of salespeople, and how much should the cash bonus be to achieve the maximum measurable improvement of the software engineer’s behavioral treatment from salespeople?
The thrill of discovery with fun added
My observation of business analysts and researchers is they can be ingenious in the way they formulate and test hypotheses to prove or disprove an idea or to determine an optimal solution for a business problem or opportunity. However, executives receive relatively more visibility than analysts, who are typically tucked away in a sea of desks.
Why not provide analysts, and the important role they perform, more visibility to the public? Make it fun. The popular TV show The Big Bang Theory highlights physicists. So why not have a TV game show for analysts and IT specialists to show off their investigative and discovery skills? We might call it The Big Data Theory!
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Gary Cokins is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in advanced cost management and performance improvement systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management, an advisory firm located in Cary, North Carolina at www.garycokins.com . Gary received a BS degree with honors in Industrial Engineering/Operations Research from Cornell University in 1971. He received his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 1974. Gary began his career as a strategic planner with FMC’s Link-Belt Division and then served as Financial Controller and Operations Manager. In 1981 Gary began his management consulting career first with Deloitte consulting, and then in 1988 with KPMG consulting. 1992 Gary headed the National Cost Management Consulting Services for Electronic Data Systems (EDS) now part of HP. From 1997 until recently Gary was in business development with SAS, a leading provider of enterprise and corporate performance management (EPM/CPM) and business analytics and intelligence software.