Welcome to the first blog post – a message from Steve Sinkoff

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So this is my first blog post, and I’ve found it more intimidating and, quite honestly, more challenging than simply tweeting or updating my LinkedIn. That said, here are my thoughts about the work we are going to do.

I have been very fortunate to have had a 2-year hiatus from the intense pace I was driving at “the other” endeavor. Many of you were part of that past and experienced our passionate approach to helping our communities. This time off has given me a chance to gain perspective on all we accomplished over the last ten years, and also to consider where the entire process needs to be re-evaluated. I am open to your thoughts on this and welcome your comments as we re-imagine a better way to engage. We need to hear your thoughts. Be brutally honest, we can take it.

When I hear, “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” it really pushes my buttons. Nothing irritates me more. I wonder why, because when we learn from experience and setup a tried-and-true business process we create a best practice. Ahhh, best practice! For many years, companies have been searching for the best practice thinking that it would spur innovation… But wait, it was at one of my conferences back in 2013 that SAP’s current President of Global Partner Operations, Rodolpho Cardenuto, said in a keynote panel, “best practices are innovation killers.” Huh…had to really think about that because adhering to the industry’s best practices is thought of as innovation, but perhaps it only gets you from marginal to average. Innovation can bring you from good to great.

You get my point. We fall into traps, and it’s really hard to break out of those sticky situations, not to mention if you have to convince your team to break out too. Well, I got my chance to clean up and break out. With a fresh start, I brought with me two of the great people I have had the pleasure of working with over the years, Kenney Escher and Ashley Witz.

Picture climbing El Capitan, that’s what jumping back in feels like, but we can do it! What really matters is the participation of everyone in the community. How can we create less intimidating situations so people can actually connect with the people they need to? We have some great ideas and will be incorporating them into our first program, Data in Motion. Ironically, this program was born during the two years I spent working on my barn-to-house conversion. While it was mostly done when I started, it was done wrong, so a lot of mistakes needed to be repaired. Sound familiar? Is that innovation? Not yet.

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Ok, Data in Motion. Think about it. We are living in the most incredible time. The pace of technology and the amount of data accumulating is accelerating so fast, we can’t even see it, even though we’re living in it. Think about the change in our society in the last ten years. Technologies like remote visualization, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, big data, and brilliant factories showcase the possible, but can’t work if the foundational data isn’t in order. Even just the way kids communicate now compared to the way they did ten years back. It’s astounding and really interesting to watch this true form of innovation. Their pioneering drive is pushing the limits, and we need to get into the stream. Think about how machinery now uses technology similar to Snapchat to send status updates. While still in it’s infancy, and more of a novelty than anything else, it leads the way to where we are going, and quickly.

The reality is that the technology is actually not going fast at all. It’s a steady and calculated growth, but the use of it is where it’s starting to break boundaries and disrupt everything we call “best practice.” However, the constant still remains and it all boils down to one simple thing: how and why we move data. Everything else is just the pipes. I haven’t really thought of it until right now, but my dad worked at IBM in scientific and technical computing back in the 60s and 70s. His division was Data Processing, and in the beginning of his career it was all about punch cards. He still has the punch card that he made the day I was born… 56 years ago (that last part hurts a little). But I think it hurts more that he stores the card somewhere hidden in his attic. I’m sure there are millions of punch cards laying around in attics across the globe with tons of irrelevant and redundant data.

So what do we do? Can we collaboratively push the envelope to harness the data and the technology so that it’s actually doing what we dreamed it could do? Until now, we’ve tested the water only with our toes, and if we’re feeling especially adventurous, we might go in to our ankles. However, to innovate, we need to take the plunge. We need to see what others are doing and share our experiences. Consider the market disrupters and how they are using data and how that will influence our organizations and our decision making. It’s quite a transformation from where we were just a few years ago. Can we manage the change that innovation will bring to our current organizations, and be able to secure our data when employees are texting critical and sensitive information, and when the machinery in our plants are connected to the IoT? The amount of data being collected is astonishing. This is the fuel for innovation, and it’s required to compete. We need to figure out how we are going to harness all that data to extract value.

There is a way, but you’re going to have to go through pain. For instance, it’s stored in silos all over the place in a myriad of formats. How are we going to keep it secure, accessible, available, and governed appropriately? What about all the historic trending and foundational data? Admit it, most of your data sucks, but don’t feel bad, so does everyone else’s. The pain of harnessing all the data will be well worth it, because it will pay incredible dividends if done right. You need to step back and figure out where all the data is, how it’s collected, how it’s being governed, what rules and actions are in place, what standards you’re using, who owns it, and what you want the data to do and why. You need to figure out how to take this mess and sift it down to a single point of truth, with the goal of making better data-driven business decisions. You need to carefully and systematically align your organizations around being champions for the outcome and make this systemic from top to bottom throughout the business.

To give this a jumpstart, we have created Data in Motion. It’s a holistic view of the business side of the data equation for assets. We need you to be part of the discussion and involved in the outcomes. Our goal is to make our programs and the communities we are developing completely user-friendly. Help us sculpt this platform so you get what you need from it. We need you to comment, contribute, engage and share your experiences so we can stimulate the dialog, build and galvanize the community, and expose what is working and what is not. Let’s work together to create an action plan to solve the data dilemma.

Trust me, we will listen, and steal your ideas, and give you back the very best experience we can. Together, we have a chance to make an impact and innovate our decision making.

In the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of blogs on all things data. Please feel free to post comments or submit something to us: info@go-2-learn.com.  Let’s get the conversation started!

This post originally appeared on April 1, 2016 on the Go2Learn blog.

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Steve Sinkoff
President & CEO at Go2Learn
As founder at Go2Learn, Steve drives the company’s strategy and operations, and leads the recruitment and business development efforts. This is his fourth startup since 2000. Steve is driven by the thrill of the ascent and thrives in leading the “do whatever it takes” stage to the “seeing and feeling success” stage of startup. He is passionate about his team, and giving them the opportunities and sharing the insight he has earned over his 30-year career. Most recently, Steve was the managing director of a global conference management company which he founded in 2005. Steve holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC.