One of the critical mistakes you can make when making analytics-based decisions is mistaking the unfamiliar with the improbable. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Nate Silver influenced my understanding of how to incorporate uncertainty into your LTV calculation, Silver also did a great job of showing that we must consider contingencies we may not even have thought of. There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.
There is a medical condition called “anosognosia,” in which a person who suffers a certain disability seems unaware of the existence of the disability. When a possibility is unfamiliar, we do not even think about it. Instead we develop a sort of mind-blindness to it. The relevant version of this syndrome for professionals in the game industry requires us to do one of the things that goes most against our nature: Admit what we do not know.
In his book, Silver used the attack at Pearl Harbor as a prime example of anosognosia within the US government. He outlined the myriad reasons why the Japanese attack had been such a surprise to our military and intelligence officers. Worse than being unprepared, we had mistaken our ignorance for knowledge and made ourselves more vulnerable as a result. In advance of Pearl Harbor we had a theory that sabotage was the most likely means by which our planes and ships would be attacked. We stacked our planes wingtip to wingtip, and our ships stern to bow, on the theory that it would be easier to monitor one big target than several smaller ones. Meanwhile we theorized that if Japan seemed to be mobilizing for an attack, it would be against Russia or perhaps against the Asian territorial possessions of the United Kingdom since Russia and the UK were already involved in the war. We had not seen the conflict through Japan’s eyes. Continue reading
Great presentation on the evolution of the game industry, the importance of mobile ads and what it means for game developers
If you were fortunate enough to see the end of the NBA playoff game Wednesday between Miami and Indiana, you saw one of the greatest plays of all time. It is also one that exemplifies how you can help your company achieve greatness. You may have seen the highlight (Below is a link to the play), but with about two seconds left in overtime, the Miami Heat were down by one point. LeBron James got the ball, blew past the defender and scored a game-winning layup with no time left to give the Heat the win and a 1-0 lead in the series.
What you probably did not realize is that although LeBron made a great play, it would never have happened without Shane Battier, the Miami Heat player who in-bounded the ball. Battier recognized the defense and put the ball in the perfect space for LeBron to get it mid-stride and be able to make the play now shown millions of times throughout the world. Without Battier, the Heat would be down 1-0 in the series with home court advantage belonging to Indiana and people questioning the Heat’s ability to repeat as NBA Champions.
It is not a coincidence that Battier was responsible for such an important play and that the in-bound pass was not made by another player. Continue reading
A paper I read recently (“What Leaders Really Do” by John Kotter) made a great case that a leader’s value is not solving problems or organizing people but leading your company through change. I have been in senior executive positions for a while now and am sometimes left speechless when someone asks me what I actually do. The paper helped crystalize where I, and you, make the biggest impact on the company. Given all the changes game companies go through (I remember the days before cell phones and when MySpace was the primary social network), the ability to understand and adapt your company to these changes is the most valuable skill you can provide; just look at all the game companies that have failed to adapt to a changing environment, from THQ to 38 Studios to Midway to Oberon to Atari.
Leadership is not management
One important issue to keep in mind with leadership is that it is not management. They are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Both are necessary for success in the game industry (and woefully lacking at many companies). In the article, Kotter points out that many companies are overly managed and underled. The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management (not necessarily with the same person or people) and use each to balance each other. Continue reading
One of my team members and I will be at CTIA next week. If anyone is going and would like to meet, please let me know.
I am very proud to announce I will be speaking at MIT’s CDOIQ (Chief Data Officer and Information Quality) Symposium in July about how data affects your LTV projections, and ways to improve the quality of your metrics. It’s going to be a great conference and I would love to meet up with anyone who will be there.
Given the importance of analytics to social and mobile game companies (just see all my posts about LTV, performance marketing, virality, monetization, etc.), having the best business intelligence (BI) team is of central importance. Finding that talent, however, is not easy. I have been very lucky to work with some of the best BI talent throughout my career; they have made me look much smarter than I am. Not everyone will be as lucky as I have been. A recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review provides great advice on predicting the performance of potential analysts.
The article points out that the ideal analyst does not exist; the job description is looking for a “unicorn.” You should not be hiring for a laundry list of skills (e.g., “I need someone with R, SWRVE and Mixpanel expertise”) because the game industry is evolving so quickly most of those skills will soon be outdated. Instead, you should look for the curiosity to keep learning, rather than the skills themselves. Continue reading
Although identifying and leveraging influencers is one of the fundamental strategies in social media marketing, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (“What Would Ashton Do – And Does it Matter” by Sinan Aral) shows it is not as simple as many think. For those not familiar with the term “Influencer,” it refers to someone who has significant influence with either a niche or the mass market due to social media presence. It could be someone with two million Twitter followers or somebody whose blog is read by virtually every doctor (and thus influences the medical community). There are third-party services, such as Klout, that create scores that attempt to show how much leverage somebody has in social media.
In social media marketing, the tactics often revolve around identifying influencers and getting them to promote your game or product. The belief is that if some of these influencers are promoting your game or product, you will hit a threshold at which everyone is talking about it (and playing it). Thus, every marketer’s top goal is to get Ashton Kutcher, who has 13.7 million twitter followers, to tweet about them.