Leadership, data and the lady on the end of the phone — Part 1

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ON THE 14 BUS — I have just read an estimate that we will have generated 35 zettabytes of data by 2020.

A zettabyte is a number with 21 zeros after it.  Try writing that out…

Yea, I can’t be bothered either.  But man, that’s a big number.  What is it all? And who is reading/ watching it?

Technology people say that we ‘create’ data and then others ‘consume’ it.

That makes it sound very posh, doesn’t it?  It certainly sounds like something you want to do.  And maybe even pay for.

Instead it increasingly feels to me like we are simply ‘throwing off’ data.  Like giving off heat.  And someone is there catching it.

It’s an image isn’t it?  We’re like wet dogs shaking furiously, and that humid cloud of noughts and dashes that flies off is being carefully preserved and made available for others to dig through.

But who wants to dig through that?

It’s brilliant that we have these new tools.  That infants in Nando’s can watch cartoons on iPads while their parents stare blindly off into the middle distance.  That satnavs mean I never have to know where I am, or where I am going.  That the Yellow Pages or Dewey Decimal System are now an anachronism.  That I can have a stack 1.5 cms high of unread books on my bedside Kindle.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that stops our most important experiences from being human ones.  I will still remember a product by the person who sold it to me, a holiday by the feeling of being there, a business meeting by the jokes or the tie…

In a digital age when the machines are meant to make all the difference, we’re learning that maybe the media is NOT the message.  Leaders are not rising up, blinking and unshaven out of their mothers’ basements.  They are still people who can interact, express and understand the things that others feel.  And do so in person.

Zettabytes are less meaningful than Zelda bites.  As F. Scott probably would never have said.


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