Knowledge: the missing piece to understanding your business
Voice Over: This is Catalog& Cocktails. Presented by Data.world.
Tim Gasper: Hello everyone. Welcome to Catalog& Cocktails presented by Data. world, the catalog for leveraging Azure data governance to give power to people and data. We're coming to you live from Austin, Texas. This is Data. world HQ. It's an honest, no- BS, non- salesy conversation about enterprise data management with tasty beverage in hand. I'm Tim Gasper, longtime data nerd and product guy at Data. world. And this is Juan.
Juan Sequeda: Hey everybody, I'm Juan Sequeda, principal scientist at Data. world, and always a pleasure to chat about data. Look, one of the things that's happened the last couple years because of the pandemic, we've been talking about data through a lot of podcasts, and this gentleman who's going to join us in a second is one of those podcasts that I think out of everything that's coming out there, it's just very, well... not just well produced, but I really love how he's so thoughtful about every single guest, and how he really kind of squeezes about all this content that we get to learn so much about everybody he has, and that is Loris Marini, who is the founder and host of Discovering Data. Loris, how are you doing?
Loris Marini: Guys, I'm doing really well, enjoying the new place. Just moved 200 Ks west of Sydney, living the dream.
Juan Sequeda: You are in the future, my friend, right? Because you're almost always a day ahead of us.
Tim Gasper: It's late afternoon here, early morning for you, so, so glad.
Loris Marini: Exactly, yeah.
Juan Sequeda: All right, well let's kick us off. So what are we drinking? What are we toasting for? Loris 9: 00 AM your time. What are you drinking?
Loris Marini: 9: 00 AM my time, there's a little bit of espresso left here in the cup, and I'm toasting to space for the family, and yeah, just a nice space to grow and thrive.
Tim Gasper: Yeah, you were describing your environment and it sounds very beautiful; open spaces, wildlife, good stuff.
Loris Marini: Oh yeah man, blue skies and horses and just a lot of room around us, so it's good. It feels good.
Tim Gasper: That's awesome
Juan Sequeda: How about you Tim?
Tim Gasper: I am drinking a Lagunitas IPA. We're a little bit on a beer kick. I promise we'll be back onto cocktails very shortly. We feel embarrassed when we get beer and things like that. We're like," Ah, we got to get back to the cocktail!" So we'll be back. And I'll cheers to space as well. It's nice when you can get away from home, and I think I need a vacation in someplace very spacious. That's my goal now.
Juan Sequeda: All right. Well I'm having one of my favorite local beers from Texas called Firemans# 4, and I think... probably on the same space, I think we're really lucky once you... if you have that space, you enjoy it with family, that's something I was very appreciated during the pandemic. We locked down and then it was my wife and I, and we had luckily this gigantic house that I just feel so lucky about that. You really appreciated that. So yeah, so to space and having space and enjoying that with family. So cheers.
Tim Gasper: Cheers!
Juan Sequeda: Cheers to that.
Loris Marini: Cheers to that. Cheers to that. And as we'll dive in a moment, space in many different senses of the meaning of the world, so not just physical space, but mental space as well, which we need more and more.
Juan Sequeda: Yeah. All right, well we've got our warmup question today. So what is the worst or the weirdest place you've ever misplaced your keys?
Loris Marini: Is it boring if I say that I've never misplaced my keys? I don't remember. Maybe once... actually no, there is one event. One time as a kid, they fell in between the gap between the concrete and the elevator, and it took an electrician to actually come in and access the bottom access of the tunnel to get them out. But I think that was a long time ago.
Tim Gasper: That must have been complicated. For a second there I was about to be like," You never lost your keys!"
Loris Marini: No,
Juan Sequeda: ... first. How about you, Tim? Do you have one?
Tim Gasper: So I have a quick funny story where 10, probably 12 years ago when I first moved to Austin, my startup office was downtown. My friend had a startup office downtown, and then we went out for a night on the town with some coworkers and friends, had a great time. And then the girl I was with actually took me back to my place, and I didn't have my keys and I had no idea where they were. And I actually had to stay over at her place because I didn't have my keys. So it was so awkward. I slept on the couch. It was like," Oh my god." And then later I found it, I left it not in my office, but my friend's office. Where this story ends is that that girl, I ended up marrying; she's my wife, she's Holly.
Juan Sequeda: There we go then. That was...
Tim Gasper: I lost my keys and I found a wife.
Juan Sequeda: There you go.
Loris Marini: How good is that? Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: Love that. I do have a key story.
Tim Gasper: Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: So, I finished my high school in Switzerland. So it was in Zurich. We lived in Zurich and I literally lost my keys. I got back home and I'm like," Oh shoot, I don't have my keys." So my host family, they open up and they're like," Yeah, don't worry about it." Next day we actually get a call from the police station saying,"Yeah, yeah, somebody found your keys and they turned it in." And actually in Switzerland, every single key has basically an ID and they know, oh, this key belongs to this door in this house, or this house."
Loris Marini: Wow.
Juan Sequeda: That's how the key showed up. So, that was perfection in Switzerland, it's just out of this world.
Loris Marini: It's efficiency, yeah.
Juan Sequeda: Swiss efficiency. But all right, let's get into a little bit of just maybe things that aren't that efficient, right? All right.
Loris Marini: Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: Loris, honest, no BS, what is the most effective way to understand the business?
Loris Marini: Yeah, it might sound like a simple answer, but I think the best way is to never be tired of asking questions, and following the money, really. It is very easy to forget that what we're doing in data, in technology in general is to use technology to solve business problems. When you get really bogged down into the technical details, which are fascinating and we all love as technical people, it's very easy to forget that you're there to make money, to increase margins, to reduce risk. So you've got to see how the money flows and ask people deep questions when you don't understand, and it's totally okay not to understand it because businesses are complex machines.
Juan Sequeda: So I want to just give an applause to this, because it is a simple answer what you just said, but why don't people get this? I mean, you said it... I've said this before, and kind of people are like,"Huh, what do you mean?" Follow the money. Understand how the money goes back to the conversation we had about business literacy; understand how the business works, understand how the money flows, and when the money flows you understand the people around the departments, blah, blah, blah. Why don't people get this? I bring this up and they kind of think as like," We're not work in finance," or whatever. Why is this?
Loris Marini: Yeah, it's an interesting question. I'm not sure why that is. I suspect if I look at my transformation as from someone that worried almost exclusively about technology, and algorithms, and implementation details to someone that got more and more interested about the business. I think that transition for me was to realize that a business is made of relationships. And when we say follow the money, it's not just a dollar amount; it's the connections between people. Because money is an abstraction. We all agree that it didn't exist, we invented money. But it's a way to measure value exchange. And value is exchanged not between machines, but between people. So sometimes you can't put a dollar value on a relationship between two people, two teams, two entities within the business. But if you understand the dynamics, then you can kind of imagine what should you do to make that relationship more or less effective? And that will in turn translate into cash flow eventually. Now the question is, which relationship matters the most? In other words, we know what part of the business should you focus on to have the biggest impact on the bottom line. And that's something that requires business literacy, as you said.
Juan Sequeda: All right. How do we get people to start thinking about this? Because this is what I struggle is, I mean people are like, okay, I get this, but is it because they're intimidated, they feel they're out of their box? How do we get them thinking about this? Or is it just a unique type of leaders who will be doing this, it's not for everybody?
Loris Marini: No, I think it's for everyone. And what worked for me is... actually, there's one thing that stuck with me; a recent episode you did with Joe Reis, he mentioned something like a curriculum- driven development for technical people, which I think it's so true. As technical people, we get really fixated. We're trying to be the smartest in the room and show everyone that we know the latest tech. And so the focus is on that, is on implementation, is not so much on the business, because the business feels so disconnected from us. Yes, we're part of the technical team, but in the end, there's politics and there's relationships within people. And relationships are complicated, are messy. It's so much easier to read the documentation on GitHub for the latest tech than to leave the keyboard and the mouse aside, walk across the hallway and actually ask a question to someone that quite frankly speaks a language different from you. It's not that comfortable. When you are not used to it, when you're live in your tech bubble, going to even a chief financial officer and having a business conversation with them that makes sense, it's kind of intimidating. So we don't do it, because we're afraid that people will judge us. We're afraid sometimes that the mask will fall down on the floor and people will realize that, hey, we're just technical people, and we don't like that necessarily.
Tim Gasper: Mh- hmm, yeah, we don't want to be judged. So we stick to what we know. We fixate on the technology and things like that, and then we talk with other technologists because we have our own language, right?
Loris Marini: Yeah. And how do you fix that, Juan, it's an excellent question. How do we make change happen? I think it starts, for me, from... once you figured out your tech and you're comfortable within your tech bubble, you know can do stuff and you know can deliver within reasonable timeframes; you're on top of your work. I think that's a good moment to start going back into feeling uncomfortable and chasing those opportunities to talk to people that are outside of your domain. It might feel like a waste of time sometimes if you do it without a strategy. But there is a habit of curiosity, I think, that is self- sustaining. When you start, the first time it feels weird, because it's a different domain, different language, different people. But then you do it and probably you walk away thinking that was just... it didn't go anywhere. But your subconscious somehow perceives information and processes, and next time you do it, it goes slightly better. And by the fourth of the fifth time, you start seeing patterns on how people speak. And you can connect dots, because you talk to Jane from marketing, and you talk to Mike from sales and now you see similarities as an outsider, and it's really the best way to do it is you see patterns when you are outside of the team, where you're not bogged into the details. And people appreciate that, when you go like," Hey, actually you should have a conversation with that person, because they're struggling with exactly the same problem," slightly different domain, but I bet you can get along and hit the ground running and actually do something useful.
Tim Gasper: How do you have genuine conversations with people? What's the approach to that?
Loris Marini: For me, it starts with being curious, with feeling this desire of you want to learn. But you can't feel that you want to learn if you don't realize that you've got something to learn. So the first step is... it's the usual saying; the more you know, the more you know that you don't know. It's an exercise, it's a muscle. And look, it's totally understandable why people don't do that, because it feels uncomfortable. Not knowing is not something that we value as a society. We used to think about value- add as you coming as an expert, and you advise people on what to do instead of coaching them to find the best way to solve their problem. And it's really a mindset shift, I think.
Juan Sequeda: So, we've got into a very deep, almost philosophical conversations right now, and I really appreciate this because there is a theme that we've been having in our podcast and in yours too, and just going off now to conferences and talking to people, curiosity is a theme. I can tell you that on our side, we've had with Vip Parma, when we kicked off the season this year... the one we did with Ruple, actually at the end of our season last time with Ergus, he brought up what do data engineers need to go do? What are their skills? And he's surprised us, I didn't expect, he said-
Tim Gasper: We were expecting him to say a technical skill or something like that, yeah.
Juan Sequeda: He said curiosity and empathy, and that stuff has stuck with me. And I brought this up over and over again, and I gave a couple talks last week with students and stuff... and people asked for the advice, and I said, be curious and be empathetic. And I think this is just a call for everybody. It's like, you know what, it's the curiosity... we're going to ask a bunch of questions, it's fine if we don't know. And I think you said it yourself, it's like, oh we're usually brought in as the expert. Oh, we're going to go hire this data team, because they know what they're doing and stuff. And it's like, it's fine if we don't know this stuff. I mean this is the honest, no- BS. I think we just need to have more of that honest, no- BS style of, I don't know, but I want to go learn, and I don't know what I don't know, which is important at this moment. So let's go figure that out, because me figuring it out is going to help you figure out some other things. And as you said yourself, we're going to start connecting the dots. And I think we're just kind of, sometimes in organizations being so robotic, and we're like, okay, here's my task, this is what I'm going to go do, and I'm done. But no, an organization, a company, it's another living being that has... everything is connected and anyways, I'm ranting again. I'll shut up. You comment on my rant here.
Tim Gasper: Yeah, what do you think about that?
Loris Marini: No, I think it's spot on, Juan. I think... when we start root- causing the issue, why is it that things are the way that they are, we will take longer than the time we have available for today. But I think I see stiffness, and that stiffness comes, I think from the way we even prepare for the workplace. Universities, and like you, I spent quite a bit of time at uni, they focus on knowledge transfer, and I think there's a difference between knowledge transfer and knowledge creation. The knowledge transfer is like the tip of the iceberg, the nice tidy thing, the textbook, the deck of slides, the thing that somebody already polished and designed in a structure that is optimized for you to absorb. And that's what we do at a uni, right? We do exams that we hit the workplace, but we don't really ever learn about psychological safety, or coaching, or us making people feel comfortable even when they're not feeling comfortable. So reading body language for example, which is a whole different thing. It has nothing to do with words, it has to do with movements and subtle changes. It has to do with emotional intelligence, which is something we don't learn and this is perhaps, it belongs to bigger field of leadership and coaching, but I think we need to tap into those skills, because this is something that is not in any way anything new. People have developed this sort of thing. So we haven't thought yet how to apply them to data and data teams and knowledge management teams. Because if there's one thing actually that I love about what you say, on LinkedIn, I see you commenting on posts; it's knowledge first, there's knowledge first. And I think you're absolutely right. The data is the raw ingredient and knowledge is what people actually use to actually make decisions and move into the world, and take actions based on that knowledge. So how do we create knowledge? And the reality is something that business leaders are not comfortable with, to be honest Juan and Tim. Knowledge creation is messy. It is not a linear process. You can't really predict how long it's going to take. Of course, you need to have deadlines, because without a deadline, nothing happens. But creating knowledge within the enterprise is something that you can't really put out, and say," We're going to create knowledge in one hour, 9: 00 to 10:00".
Juan Sequeda: So let's dive into what your definition is of creating knowledge within an organization. I've got mine; I want to hear yours.
Loris Marini: Yeah. So creating knowledge to me is the messy process of adding useful, actionable information to the already existing body of knowledge so that people can solve old problems in a more effective way, and perhaps be more equipped to solve new problems when they arise. How does that...
Juan Sequeda: Okay. No, I think that's a fair statement on what knowledge is and how we're kind of creating more knowledge. Now from your perspective, I would love to see an example of how this is applied just in a project or different organizations that worked before. But I think this is something that we kind of intrinsically or implicitly we do, but it's not made explicit and I believe that we should be making this more explicit about what we're learning, and this comes back into the organization.
Tim Gasper: Explicit knowledge.
Loris Marini: Yeah. So an example is I was working.... with the customer success team at a startup. And so the problem they had is that they had a ticketing system, and people would submit a request when they had some sort of issue with their account or with the software; it was a SaaS business. And their problem is how do we effectively help these people and in the shortest amount of time possible? The complication was that not every instance, not every customer waits the same. There were those that just started and were on trial, and those that were in the top 1% in terms of revenue generation. So they wanted to focus on those that were in the top 5%, and they needed to get all that information, like the context around the user experience for that customer very quickly, but we didn't have systems that could do that. So the engineers had plenty of databases, oh, so many databases because the architecture change over time. So one of the very simple things we did was create a Slack bot, that one command, one ping would bring you the most important metrics for that instance. Of course metrics didn't really exist in that form, so we have to design them. But overall, it was a six- week project. So if you look at that, that's not knowledge creation, that is just taking information that exists in databases, and bringing and servicing that information to these people. But as a result of that process, they started understanding their customers better, and now they could inform the support team as well on what to do. Or what was a sticky point that they realized they didn't even have a clue that that sticky point was there. Now because that information was in context and was available at their fingertip, they could understand their customer experience so much better. Is that knowledge creation? I think that's the beginning of knowledge creation, is a new insight, a new view on an old problem that was opaque and now is transparent and now you can start reasoning about it. That's what kicks off the gears in the brain and creates knowledge.
Juan Sequeda: I really like this. It's kind of a new view on an existing old problem. And then once you have that new view... that is why diversity is so important, because you get different points of views to look at this problem we've always been seeing. You put the same people in the same room, look at this problem over and over again, they're not... but you change, you mix it up, then you're going to come up with different ideas, and this is where knowledge comes in.
Tim Gasper: Yeah. I think one of the challenges with all of this though is that so often, the insight happens, you're using the knowledge, you have the insight. For example, this example that you gave, we're able to consult the support team veteran, things like that, that insight happens. How do you capture it? How do you bottle that? Because, sometimes that first level of knowledge creation happens. But some of the most interesting knowledge creation I think is the second, third, fourth order kind of knowledge that you're creating about use cases, about business value, about new monetization strategies, new data, product strategies. It's things that are different than just," Oh here's the first level of knowledge." But sometimes people think it, it's in their head but it doesn't... it's not captured. Is that okay? Is that...
Juan Sequeda: And to that point, I think one of the things when it comes to knowledge is that... we all think about how to automate stuff. I mean what does even automate knowledge creation mean? And I think some people's like," Oh, this is too much manual work, because it's not going to go scale," it's always a thing, right?
Tim Gasper: Right.
Juan Sequeda: So how do we respond to that? How would you respond to that?
Loris Marini: I don't think you can automate knowledge creation 100%, but what you can do is create systems that make it super easy to access, establish knowledge, and to add to that body of knowledge. And so that's not just obviously, softer as you said many, many times on the show, is people and processes. But the thing is... for a very good reason, we are lazy machines. There's evolutionary reasons why we favor the path of least resistance. So it's not something to be ashamed, it's not something... and I hate when I hear people, the sort of narrative around knowledge management and data management that you've got to do the work right, and you have to put the effort. And if you don't do, it's because you don't understand it. Maybe there is definitely some people there that don't get why you need to manage things. But I think most people have an intuition. If I buy a property, I'm going to make sure that I've got keys for that property and I've got the paperwork, and I'm not going to just leave the paperwork out on the street or make a billion copies and distribute it in the libraries of 50 cities in the country, because that is an asset to me, and I want to retain control of that asset. So same thing with data and knowledge. I mean there's not much more than that to be honest. But what really makes a difference for me is, and I've seen it on my own business, creating my own small one- person gig type of systems, it's not going to happen, knowledge management is not going to happen if there is even the slightest friction, because we're busy, we've got a billion priorities, and it has to be easy, it has to be intuitive. So, that's one way to make it.
Juan Sequeda: And something to add to that is that there needs to be incentives for this. And I think because you can make it easy, but people are like," Okay, what am I going to get out of it, because I got these other things to go do anyways?" So I think that the incentives part is something that we need to start thinking about. So, I've been thinking this idea, I've brought this up before and testing it out with a lot of our customers and stuff is, let's go catalog the questions that you have. Let's go, what keeps you up at night? I did this experiment when I told people, what keeps you up at night? Go write it down. What metrics would you use? Go write it down. And then surprisingly, everybody had a bunch of stuff. I'm like, yeah, okay, I got that down. So it was an easy thing. People were very open to give that. But then, okay, what do I go do with this, such that I can get more of the feedback? So people's like," I already told you, what else do you need from me?" I think this is where we need to start understanding how we can capture this knowledge and do something more interesting around it, because it's not just about keeping track of questions and stuff. But anyway-
Loris Marini: Absolutely.
Juan Sequeda: I think we need to push the barriers on this, and it's so open kind of greenfield here.
Loris Marini: Yeah, and Tim, just to connect this with what you said before our about second order, third order, fourth order, which I love is perhaps, and this is maybe just a crazy idea, but perhaps the common connection between those two or one way forward is to think about a community model within the organization. It's like Reddit, or Stack Overflow. What you do is post the question, people up vote questions and there's kind of a natural selection going on, where questions that are useful and that are relevant get up- voted and people comment. So not only that is transparent because everybody can see the questions that have already been asked, so you don't reinvent the wheel and you save time. But it also gives a platform for people that are not necessarily into public speaking and standing up on a stage and giving a munch and learn kind of session tools to shine as well. Because we love cameras and microphones, we're here, but there's a whole bunch of people that don't necessarily like that medium. They prefer text, short text, tweets even, right? They're so efficient. Different styles of communication and that platform could bring these people together, and encourage that knowledge exchange. But you've got to go through the process of an idea, share that idea, get people comfortable to process it and share their own view on that idea. And I think that is the messy, non- linear process that I was talking about. That brings you to the second tier, the third level, and the fourth level of knowledge creation. But you've got to spend time and you got to have a platform. Otherwise it's just," Hey, I had an idea." Boom, and it ends there. Not nice.
Tim Gasper: Yeah. I like this. I like your comments about think like Reddit, think like Twitter. I honestly think there isn't a good solution for this today. This idea of I want to contribute my knowledge in small chunks. We still, as a world, really think in terms of Wikipedia and stuff like that. It's much more like, oh the body of knowledge is a document. So I don't know. That's more of a stub of a thought that there's an opportunity here that I think meets some of the incentives that you're thinking about, but it's just not really solved well.
Juan Sequeda: Yeah, no I-
Loris Marini: Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: I'm just literally staring right now here in the open, I'm thinking within organizations, how much... we all agree to this; there's so much stuff that in people's heads that, and it's written some places that we don't know where it is, and those folks will leave, they retire. We're trying to onboard people to the organization. I just can quantify the amount of time and money being wasted in... because we are not keeping track of this. But we think about it is the solution is some technology or whatever, like oh, have a wiki. We've done that stuff and then it doesn't get up to date and stuff. So is that it? Are we just doomed to just the smartest will survive and we'll know this and that's it?
Loris Marini: No, I think I we can do a lot better than that.
Juan Sequeda: You're more optimistic?
Loris Marini: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I'm super optimistic. I'm very much aware that the fuel of that optimism, the reason why, where is it coming from, I think for me it's coming from adrenaline spikes. I literally get an adrenaline hit every time I know something and I share with someone, and that someone interacts actively on that piece of knowledge. All my systems go on, and they are excited, and I enjoy and that's why I run the podcast. Not everybody is like that and it's totally fine. But there's other ways, and I think that positive loop can be still implemented even if you don't like public speaking. But it's all about understanding, give me a platform, give me a voice. I see silent heroes to be honest. I meant excellent DevOps engineers in my days in Sydney, people that could do things that to me were unbelievable in terms of speed, efficiency and the complexity. They were the most silent people. They only speak if you look at them straight in the eyes, you ask a question, direct question to them, then they will say something, and it's typically a tweet length response. There's not like a conversation. They're just not geared that way. Those people are super smart. There's a lot of domain knowledge in their heads. And if you go and try to extract it, you most certainly we will get a defense mechanism that kicks in and they will just close down. They're not going to open up. So that psychological safety is key, because if I know that I'm not... there's not a threat here, right? It's okay. It's okay to share what I know, because you're not going to copy and steal it away from me, because my performance is not based on what I, as an individual, achieve. It's based on what we together achieve. So it goes down to culture. So you can't really decompose these things, but I think a platform can help.
Juan Sequeda: Yeah. So I think that there's different aspects about, okay, understanding how some technology works and so forth. But I'm really interested in something I've been talking to folks recently is, what about cataloging and understanding business processes; where do these live and how up to date are they? Because processes change all the time, and these processes will affect this data, these systems or whatever. And these processes is knowledge about how the business works. And then we look at all the different data teams and systems, I feel that's disconnected from business processes. And you look at tools like BPMN and all that stuff, and that's disconnected from people using now Snowflake and DBT and all these things, like wow, this is disconnected when this should all be eventually all connected. And the question is, how do we connect this? I don't know. I feel you on the optimism, but I look at all these different organizations and I'm like, how the heck are we going to be able to connect all this stuff together, and we're striving for it. I want to go do this, but it's overwhelming. I'm having my kind of negative pause right now. I'll shut up and...
Loris Marini: You're Debbie Downer right now.
Tim Gasper: Loris, you got me excited actually, because when Juan was like," Hey, are we doomed?" I was like uh- oh. But your response here really got me excited, which is this idea of the feedback loop or the feedback mechanism of like, okay, well maybe this actually all can work, right? Because people just need to know that what they're contributing is having an impact. And I don't know that we always have that traceability and that knowledge around how our knowledge is impacting things.
Loris Marini: Yeah. No, we don't. So back to what Juan said, the incentives before, incentives is not just rewriting or updating the process through which you're going to get a pay rise, or you can renegotiate your salary. It's not just that. Incentives are about the subtle little things we do when we meet with the team, the praises, the opportunities for people to explain why they're feeling anxious right now, and in an open space. That is an incentive, because if I know that my workplace and my team makes intentionally the time to listen to what is happening in my little world, I know that I'm heard. There's more trust between me and my boss or my colleagues. And that trust builds relationships. So, we go back full circle, that it's about the relationships within the team. And once you feel safe and you feel heard and you feel like nothing is something out of... a reason to be ashamed of, because there's no judgment, then ideas start flowing really, really quickly. What kills that? A culture where people fight to get to the top, and only the loudest and the most fierce person gets the promotion, because they are the only ones that are seen by the top management. So obviously that doesn't work. And when we say it's a people and processes challenge, it's absolutely that, but it's mostly I think a people, because the process is something that comes as a result of interactions of ideas or knowledge being exchanged. And that's when you find a good way to solve a problem, and you define a process but the process is short lived, as you say it Juan. It doesn't last forever. So what are you going to do next iteration? So it's an internal battle that organizations need to fix and it requires that perhaps organizational psychologists should be part of data teams in the future.
Tim Gasper: The therapists?
Juan Sequeda: This hits a spot for me that I talk about it, a data therapist. And I tell this to people, my wife, she's a behavior analyst. Her PhD is in special education and an applied behavior analysis. She works with children with autism, but she's a person who's made me think much more about the people aspect, and specifically the behaviors, understanding people and their behaviors. And I go change behavior, understand their incentives and be able to go talk to people. Here's this crazy idea, I brought this up before, is that you have some sort of a therapist. It's a person who will go off and go talk to people and go ask those why's, is that curiosity. And I think this person, imagine this person reports to somewhere in the C- suite, and they're going to be... it's almost a type of a consultant of a thing, but somebody who works in there, who has a skin in the game of the organization, they're going off and saying," Hey, what keeps you up at night? Why? Why? Why? Why?" Then connects a dot, let me go talk to this other person, why? I'm just going off, I'm starting to create the map of understanding where things are. And then you go present this literally to the C- suite. I'm just sharing observations about this stuff. You're all thinking the operational goals of the companies should go this way, northwest. But if people are thinking about the problems that are here southeast, did he even know about this? I mean don't blame the messenger. So I think there is some room here to do some radical, weird things that we've not done before.
Tim Gasper: Yeah. Loris, what's your perspective on the role of this data therapist and what Juan's saying there?
Loris Marini: I've been thinking about this a little bit, and I think there's two elements. I think one is everybody should become more aware at least of what therapy is and the process of addressing issues, and getting at the bottom of problems. I think that's also always helpful. But I think Juan is right. I mean you've got to have that external person that is domain- agnostic... someone that doesn't particularly care whether it's engineering that is going to get more budget next time the board decides how to allocate funding. Someone sits at the top that is completely... is part of the organization, but it doesn't really belong to any particular domain, but can speak the language of each domain, that can have a one- on- one conversation with a VP of sales, and one with a VP of whatever, procurement, or product and speak their language and connect the dots and say," Hey, actually I talked about this very similar thing with the other person just yesterday. Maybe we should have a chat. Do you mind if I get a coffee?" We find an hour and sit together. That's how new ideas are born. But it can't be done just at the VP level, it has to penetrate the organization, I think from the top, the C- suite, all the way to the bottom. And so these people are going to have a ton of work to do, to be honest. And there's really no blueprint except for best practices in psychology and communication. But when you apply that to the business and now you are not in one domain but you're cross- domain, well I can imagine it's kind of challenging to do that. I'll love to jump on a role like that in the future, but these people need to be supported as well. Otherwise, they're going to end up quitting themselves, and we're back on square one.
Tim Gasper: Mh-hmm.
Juan Sequeda: This has been a phenomenal conversation, very deep, as I mentioned earlier, deep and philosophical. Before we get go to our lightning round, I want to go, one final kind of question here is what's your advice to the technical folks, people who are listening, who are just... they're the ones who roll up their sleeves and they go... they're the ones who write the data pipeline, they engineer the SQL queries and all that stuff. What's your advice to them?
Loris Marini: So of course the first advice is you already know your technical stuff. So next time that you're bored on those rainy weekends, perhaps a Saturday when you're thinking of ordering Thai food, to dive into the new real- time architecture and try to implement a thing from scratch, consider investing your time in what people call the soft skills, which we already established they should be called human skills, and that is communication. And the only way you can do that is not by watching a tutorial online, is by actually doing it. So don't do it on the weekend, rest on the weekends, and when you can, find that 30 minutes lunch opportunity instead of eating in front of your screen, if you can, meet people and challenge yourself. I know what helped me, to be honest, is meditation as well. That opened a new journey into metacognition for me. I try to be more aware of how much I am not aware of myself. And the more I do that, the more I realize actually, it's crazy how much I don't know what I do, and how I speak, and the body language that I put out there into the world. But I'm trying, it's a lifelong project. It's a program, it's not a project, it never ends. But it's fascinating. So if you are into personal growth and growth mindset, plenty to learn.
Juan Sequeda: Oh, thank you for that. I think this is also important why getting back in person is really paramount for this type of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing, because I mean it's hard to do it behind a screen, right? Just having that social... go have a coffee, let's go have a beer, let's go just have a cup of tea or whatever, let's go chat about that. All right. Well the time flies, I mean this is great and I look forward to having more of these conversations. But let's move to our lightning round, which is presented by Data. world, the data catalog for successful cloud migration. I'll kick it off first. So we talked so much about data, data, data, dat. Will people care about knowledge?
Loris Marini: Yes, I hope so. Without that, it's kind of pointless. It just grows entries in databases.
Juan Sequeda: Well, I mean I'm with you that I hope so. I think it better.
Loris Marini: Yeah.
Tim Gasper: Make it happen, right?
Juan Sequeda: I think it's up to folks like you and us and everybody... a lot of people we talk to are like, we need to make this change. That's that paradigm shift.
Tim Gasper: Mh- hmm, yeah.
Loris Marini: Absolutely.
Tim Gasper: Second question. So if a company has a very closed culture around curiosity, knowledge sharing, being vulnerable in that way, does change start, because individuals in the company are going to make a choice and really from the ground up start to make that groundswell? Or in contrast, is it really something that has to start from the top?
Loris Marini: I think there's option C, it has to be a combination of top and bottom. They have to meet somewhere in between. You can't do it without support from top leadership, and you can't do it without the engagement of people actually doing the job. So there has to be a balance I think.
Juan Sequeda: All right, next one. Is knowledge creation a job?
Loris Marini: That's a tricky one. It depends on what you mean with a job. A job to me sounds like, oh god, something I got to do. I think it's more of a fun thing. But if for job, you mean it's something that has a clear scope and must produce an output, a very clear output, then yes, knowledge creation is a job, hopefully it's a fun job to do.
Juan Sequeda: All right.
Tim Gasper: Mh-hmm. All right, last question. Fast forward three years from now, will the data/ organizational therapist or organizational psychologist be a real role?
Loris Marini: I very much hope so. Maybe not mainstream yet, I think it's going to take a little longer than that, but I still see some beginning, just the sparks. Something is changing. People understand that it is about people and processes, and so what does that mean? Someone will have to figure it out. And as you experiment, the stuff will become obvious. And there's plenty of brilliant people managers out there that know about psychological safety and leadership. So it won't take long to connect the dots.
Tim Gasper: Yeah, I hope so. It certainly feels like we're moving in that direction. And with things like data product managers for example, it feels like there's more of an emergence and a valuing of roles that are caring about the stakeholders, and thinking about, oh how can we provide more value to each other? And what are your problems? So I think hopefully we're moving in the right direction.
Loris Marini: Yep.
Juan Sequeda: Well Tim, take us away with your takeaways. We've got so much stuff here that... I'm just going through our list of takeaways.
Tim Gasper: Yeah, so many good takeaways from this conversation Loris. And to start off, we kind of talked about how do you understand your business, how do you really absorb and create knowledge? And what you really mentioned, and I bolded it in my notes, is never be tired to ask questions and follow the money. So ask questions, follow the money. It's okay not to understand. Ask questions, ask questions, learn, follow the connections. Relationships are really key. Relationships are between people. Value is based on people, not based on machines. And if you understand the dynamics, the relationships, the people, you can make decisions more effectively, and ultimately it will all lead to cash flow. So this all connects back to business, the business value at the end. And how do you know what relationships matter the most though, or what people matter the most, or what things matter the most? You need business literacy to know that. So for data people, this is a theme that keeps on coming up over and over again lately on our show is that it's not just about trying to get the business people to have data literacy. It's perhaps even more important for us to really think about how do we bring business literacy to data people and really encourage that. How do we get people thinking this way? Is it just for business leaders or is it for everyone? And you said, no, it's for everyone. Everyone needs to be a part of this and thinking this way. And you kind of made a call back to our conversation with Matt and Joe Reis, the writers of the data engineering book from... fundamentals of data engineering, from O'Reilly, around curriculum- driven development for technical people. As technical people, we get fixated on the latest stack. That's an implementation focus, not a business focus. Business feels messy, feels like it's more like people, and it's fuzzier, it's a different language, it's uncomfortable. We don't do it, because we're worried. We're worried we're going to get judged. And so you have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and be willing to put yourself out there and practice it, do it right? Because, if you don't do, it's really hard to do. You don't fall into that pattern. See patterns when you're outside the team. People appreciate it when you see patterns and try to have genuine conversations. So be curious, ask questions. The more you know, the more you learn you don't know. There's a difference between knowledge transfer and knowledge creation you said, right? Knowledge transfer is more the sort of structured, ready to absorb, very constrained kind of information, but it doesn't go into communication, or connection, or empathy or some of the more business context, the relationship side of it. And it doesn't go beyond the basic requirements. Whereas knowledge creation, it's messy, it's not linear, you can't always predict how long it's going to take. And creating knowledge within the enterprise is something that's a lot harder, but perhaps a lot more valuable. An untapped opportunity. And you mentioned some creative approaches to be able to do knowledge creation. For example, you mentioned creating a Slack bot that would provide the most important metrics to people, and it starts that conversation and starting to leverage that knowledge in more interesting ways, create second- order knowledge. And then, you also mentioned about automation as being a factor that can help. You can't do 100% automation, and perhaps it's even hard to get close to 100%, but you can make it easy to access and you can add... you make it easy to add to the body of knowledge. So, I thought there was some great advice there. And then Juan, what about you? What were your takeaways?
Juan Sequeda: We got more here. So one of them is humans are lazy-
Loris Marini: ....
Juan Sequeda: I love this. This is the honest to me, we're lazy machines so we always favor the path of least resistance. So I think that's something that we need to acknowledge. So one of the ideas is, how can we come up with... some sort of a community model within an organization? Think of like a Reddit or stuff like that, where we can get very tight and short and concise about what we're talking about. Think like Twitter, we always talked about that. So this was something that I really liked is humans are lazy. How do we make sure that we can extract and create that knowledge, understanding those incentives that we need to be able to go provide around that. And then we're like, this kind of seems like is it actually going to happen? Are we doomed or not? I'm happy to hear that you're optimistic about that, and I like how you said that you get that adrenaline spike when you know something, you teach it to somebody else and somebody else acts upon it, they get excited about that I think we need to have more of those adrenaline spikes and get people learning more about what's happening. And I think that you show that excitement, other people get that excitement and that all sticks around that. And then we talked again about that data therapist or organizational psychologist. Everybody should learn about therapy around these things. And maybe as someone external who can oversee everything around the different organizations who are not specific to a particular domain, they can have that objective viewpoint about things, that facilitator. And then finally, I like your advice to the technical people. It's like, yeah, you know what? Get out of your lunch in front of your screen. No, go talk to somebody else and just go understand what department they're in, and what are they working on, and why are they working on that, and why is that important. That's the kind of very easy steps about that. That was a lot.
Tim Gasper: And meditate.
Loris Marini: That was a great summary.
Juan Sequeda: And meditate,
Loris Marini: Yeah, meditate, meditate. And I might have...
Juan Sequeda: ...
Loris Marini: Fantastic. Just re- listening, I think I got my neuroscience wrong and that tells you that I'm not a neuroscientist. I think it's dopamine is not adrenaline, the spike that I'm looking for. But yeah, the message is there. Get your dopamine spike, find it, cherish it, because that's energy. In the end, if you are six or seven levels disconnected from the chief executive, that's the reality of large organizations. You can't expect for people to always say... to praise you to find that spike. Sometimes it has to come from within yourself. Even when nobody is actually seeing the work you're doing, but you still feel that dopamine spike. You're like, I'm going to go to work tomorrow and I'm going to try X, Y, and Z, and you keep following that engine.
Juan Sequeda: Yep. All right. So now back to you. Three questions. What's your advice? Who should we invite next, and what resources do you follow?
Loris Marini: Okay, so I'm going to go in reverse order. Resource I follow, let me read my podcast list. So there's one podcast that I really love at The Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish. I've been listening for quite some time, and he just covers a lot of things and just recently a lot into the psychology and building teams and emotional intelligence, which is really interesting. I should get him on my podcast. Eventually, I'll get there. There is Equity Mates. It's a fantastic podcast, talks about investing, but you really understand more money. So if you're not that well- equipped with thinking about money and investing in businesses, and VCs, and capital raises and all that stuff, that's an excellent podcast. It's the beginning of developing those business skills. What else do I follow? I follow The Look& Sound Of Leadership is another fantastic resource by Tom Henshaw. He's got this storytelling format, short 10 minutes episodes that are solo. So it's just him telling a story. But yeah, they are powerful. And it's short anecdotes of things that happened and how that person managed to gain more confidence, or establish executive presence. Things that we as data technical people need to develop a lot more. I think these are the top three to be honest. And obviously, well the Catalog& Cocktails podcast should be in the top three. As I said in my podcast, it's definitely in the top three list, because you guys cover so many topics and just a... it's just food for my brain. So keep doing that.
Juan Sequeda: ..
Tim Gasper: Thank you so much.
Juan Sequeda: Yeah.
Tim Gasper: We love it and we love your podcast as well. Discovering Data is awesome.
Juan Sequeda: So going in reverse, so then who should we invite next?
Loris Marini: It's been a long time on my list, and it's probably never going to happen for me because I'm not at that stage there. But I'd love to have a conversation with Simon Sinek. He's been talking about leadership for a very long time, and popularizing a lot of concepts like Infinite Games, Mindsets and all that stuff. It'd be cool to have a chat with him, or maybe with someone that worked with him sooner or later, to get insights on how do you actually build teams and lead them and make them thrive?
Juan Sequeda: Hold the Why, that would-
Tim Gasper: Yeah, Start with Why, and oh man, I would love to chat with him. We should team up and figure out how we can get them in a room.
Loris Marini: Maybe. Yeah, exactly. Maybe we can ...
Juan Sequeda: That's actually a great idea. Let's go figure this out.
Loris Marini: We combine the audiences with one episode, yeah, definitely. Let's do it.
Tim Gasper: Yep.
Juan Sequeda: And finally, what's your advice about data, life?
Loris Marini: Life?
Juan Sequeda: Whatever, whatever.
Loris Marini: I don't know if I can give advice about life, to be honest. Life is messy. I'm still very much in the process of figuring that out. Data, the advice about data, well my advice is this; don't think too much about data, think about what you can learn from the data. In other words, knowledge. And don't fix too much on the knowledge you acquire and control as an owner of knowledge. Instead, think about the multiplication effect that comes in when you share knowledge. So find opportunities to share that as much as possible, whether it's a talk, or a Slack, or a tweet. Whatever is your channel, share knowledge, get feedback and learn and find your dopamine spike.
Juan Sequeda: That's a great way to finish this. Loris, this was fantastic. Thank you for going... we went down this very interesting kind of road of being practical and being philosophical around this. And these are the conversations that I truly appreciate, because they stick with you.
Loris Marini: Guys, absolute pleasure. I had so much fun. We should do this again. Very much-
Juan Sequeda: Yeah, yeah.
Loris Marini: Very much. Looking forward to this.
Juan Sequeda: Well thank you so much. And as always, we say thanks to Data. world who lets us do this all the time. And Loris, thanks to you. Cheers!
Loris Marini: Cheers with my empty coffee.
Tim Gasper: Cheers.
Voice Over: This is Catalog& Cocktails. A special thanks to Data. world for supporting the show, Carly Berghoff for producing, John Loyens, and Bryon Jacob for the show music. And thank you to entire Catalog& Cocktails campus. Don't forget to subscribe, rate and review wherever you listen to your podcast.
The most effective way to understand your business is the special balance between things like tribal knowledge and extracted knowledge, technical teams and business teams, confidence and skepticism.
Join Tim, Juan, and Loris Marini, CEO of Discovering Data, as they zoom in to find that balance and the humility it may take.