Poke the Box – and Count Beans, Too

Poke the Box - and Count Beans, Too


I never took a marketing class in college.  But I found a better substitute — read every Seth Godin book.  I’ve only got a few left, and I have learned a huge amount.

My latest Godin read: Poke the Box.

In this short, blog-posty book, Seth challenges us not to wait for permission, to create, to keep shipping.  Don’t let fear keep you from something great.

Lofty ideals.  What does it mean for the analyst, who has to produce timely, accurate work?  How innovatively can one run an income statement?  “Creative” and “accounting” aren’t often used well together.

Here are ways to poke the box, even when counting beans:

1.  Re-invent the wheel – make it round this time.  

There is a lot of inefficient data analysis out there.  Reports have morphed and grown unwieldy.  Hard-coding and other dangerous spreadsheet practices increase the chance of error.  Analysts can do the same report for so long that they don’t realize how inefficient it is.        

So think of ways to re-create your standard reporting.  Put it in a PivotTable.  Add a visualization.  People might not understand why you’re reinventing the wheel with a new report.  Just say that it was never a very good wheel. 

2.  Branch out your skills.  

The worst attitude?  “I’m not a ______ guy.”  

“Sorry, I can’t do that.  I’m not a numbers/IT/marketing guy.”

This qualifies your value and leaves you powerless.  You do your work, others do theirs, and you can’t help what happens.

Analysts can’t get away with this attitude because they are constantly liaisons — between finance and IT, marketing and accounting, etc.  

Nobody is asking you to be an expert in all these subjects.  In fact, specialization is a good thing.  But you should have some basic understanding of what other people in your team do.  Because you need to translate between these groups to solve problems.  

3.  Start a mastermind group.  

It’s easy to get caught up in your own data set and not see how your work fits into the whole.  Or you spend hours fidgeting in Excel that you could have spent doing real data analysis.  

To avoid analyst tunnel vision, set up a brief “mastermind” session with your fellow analysts.  It doesn’t need to be formal — do it each second Friday during lunch, for example.  

Ask questions and share tips with each other.  If you’re struggling with something, someone has “been there, done that.”  

Don’t wait for a formal meeting invite to collaborate.  You all need to have lunch, right?  

Some analyst functions don’t seem ripe for creativity.  With the right attitude, you can poke the box — and make things balance, too.

Thoughts?  Comment or email me:  email hidden; JavaScript is required

 Photo courtesy of Gratisography.

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