Are you an analytics beagle or a performance wolf?

So, I can’t even begin to describe how lame I feel this analogy is, but it’s effective, I think.

Beagles are great hunters.  They have an incredible nose, they’re very smart, they have great endurance and they’re faster than you’d ever imagine.

Wolves are also great hunters.  Fast, silent, great instincts, and accurate.

So what’s the difference between the two?  While one is pointing and barking at the issue at hand, hoping that someone else will finish the job, the wolf is dining.

What I see these days is a lot of beagles.  Incredibly smart, diligent, and creative people who bark and point at problems, letting the company know, “Over here guys!  Come take a look!”  The beagles will hang out comfortably by the fire until they’re called to duty, asked by the master to find what the company is hunting for.  They’re given a scent and they’re off on the trail. The company pours some puppy chow into their bank account every few weeks and pats them on the head as they progress in skill.  If they do a great job, they might get a nicer mat to sleep on or a shiny new collar.  But someone else is called in to handle the problem, and those people end up getting ahead.

The wolf, however, actively hunts.  They don’t wait for a master to ask them to eat, they feel the hunger and get off their wolf asses and kill something.  They drag the kill back to the den and feed their young, training them how to kill for themselves, be independent, defend themselves.  They also choose and plan their approach, starting with nearby meals that will be easier to bring down.  When they need to bring down a large beast, they collaborate seamlessly, knowing there will be plenty of time to argue over who eats first after the beast is tackled.

So, if you’re an analytics practitioner, what do you do? If you only know how to follow a scent, learn how to kill.  Learn design.  Learn usability.  Learn HTML, PHP, SQL, etc. Learn the financial backbone of the business – the core drivers of success.  Stop talking about page views and start talking about profit.  Actively seek problems that you know in your gut and bring them down with the data you know how to retrieve better than anyone.  Stop settling for being told what to look for, where to go.  Start getting hungry, and take all of the credit that’s due to you, sharing the credit that’s due others.  Teach others how to kill.  Be a wolf.

If you’re a company struggling with crap analysts, make some good hires, pay for training, and reward performance.  Not report-producing performance, PROFIT-enhancing performance.  Dis-reward (I know that’s not a word, thank you very much) the soft performance measures of old.  The kid staying until 9:00 pm to produce a report that shows you 5 data points and 0 recommendations is on the chopping block.  The kid staying until 4:00 and taking a 2-hour lunch who gives you 1 data point to support 10 recommendations is going to the corner office, and she desperately needs a better manager who can challenge her and set the bar.

Are you a beagle or a wolf today?  Don’t be a beagle tomorrow.


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2 Comments

  1. Greg

    You are wrong about beagles. They drive for useful resutls, and are not just opportunists, like wolves. But they are also first to jump on any glimmer of an opportunity as well as create them.

    Posted October 19, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink
  2. I believe your last sentence was the whole point of my post: that jumping on opportunities and creating them is a proactive, rather than reactive practice. So I’m not sure what you mean. Many businesses tell analysts where to look and what they need from the analyst. They point, and we react. This inherently means that analytst’ ability (or motivation) to be proactive, rather than reactive, is hampered, or in some sad cases, nonexistent.

    Yes, being a part of useful results is nice. But causing them is better.

    And for the record, I like beagles. The dogs, I mean.

    Posted October 19, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink