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Sunday, August 12, 2018

What I Learned From Malcolm Gladwell at the Business Applications Summit

Posted by Talbot Harty

Let me start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve read all of his books: The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David & Goliath. They are placed prominently on the bookshelf that holds my all-time favorites.A slide from the Business Summit

I am also a frequent listener of Malcolm’s Revisionist History podcast. So, when I heard that he was doing the guest keynote at the Microsoft Business Applications Summit, I was really looking forward to hearing how he was going to tie into Microsoft’s business application technology.

Well, he definitely did not disappoint! He told us stories and shared data in his own, unique way, leading us all to the inevitable but startling conclusions he is so famous for exposing.  He also left us with some good advice.

After we spent a couple of days delving into and geeking out on the power and potential of Microsoft’s D365 and Power Platform technology, Malcolm took us all on a journey to a better understanding of how the measurement systems used in our public schools have created unintended consequences that, in fact, are the opposite of what we would expect.

A key example that hit home for me was the consequences associated with the drive to make reduced classroom sizes a top priority. Through his analysis, we can see that this has actually resulted in much higher costs and lower quality education for our children.

He then applied this same thinking to business applications. His advice (a warning, actually): Technology and data can be devastating when they are used without deeper thinking. Be careful about your assumptions and think about the values you want to uphold when designing information systems. If your assumptions are bad, your processes will be designed incorrectly, and the data you are looking for will reinforce the inaccurate assumptions.

You can have the most amazing technology and data collection ever invented, and the outcomes will still be horrible if you don’t bring the appropriate values and thinking into the solution.

Very good advice, indeed!


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