At a recent CFO.com magazine conference I attended, Accenture’s Jeanne G. Harris, co-author of the recently published book Analytics at Work, described a Hollywood movie star who successfully applied statistical analytics to improve his career. This celebrity wanted to increase the probability they would appear in a success rather than a flop. Is the actor Tom Cruise , Meryl Streep or George Clooney? Did this movie star rely on his publicist to perform the analysis?
The answer is “no” to all of these questions.
As Harris described it, the actor is Will Smith, and early in Smith’s career, when he was only on television shows, he and his business manager applied their own form of cluster analytics to pursue a cinema career. They analyzed the 10 highest money-grossing films of all time to uncover patterns. They observed that 10 out of 10 had special effects. Nine out of 10 had special effects with creatures from outer space. Eight out of 10 had special effects with creatures and a love story.
The rest is history. Smith was in Independence Day, Men in Black, I, Robot, and I am Legend. He is the only movie star whose films predictably earn more than $20 million. His movie Hancock which did not get good reviews still grossed $625 million worldwide. The application of statistical analysis improved Will Smith’s likelihood of being in a high revenue generating movie. You could call him analytical competitor – a term that Harris and her co-author Tom Davenport have coined for organizations who use analytics as a competitive edge.
What is wrong with doing better by being smarter?
Analytics come in many flavors. They are not limited to only solving problems. Analytics can also create opportunities. For example, imagine you operated a social media website and you wanted to make more money by offering insightful information to a manufacturer or distributor. Let us say that from monitoring your website’s members’ Internet navigations across the Web, you detect that certain types of women ages 24-29 with jobs as school teachers routinely surf from a school book website to a school teacher supplies website, and at that website they click on jewelry, especially earrings.
What value is there for your website in knowing this information? Using that fact-based evidence plus some profile information on website registrants, your social media website could offer and sell to the highest bidding jewelry company “banner ads” that would appear to any female school teachers ages 24-29 that log on. The time period for the banner advertisement could be a week or longer. Reliably predictable page view count statistics could be committed to the jewelry manufacturer or distributor to assure them of traffic.
By using statistics, Will Smith can determine what will lead to a highly likely desirable outcome for himself. Using business analytics, a company can use its imagination to accomplish something similar. Analytical software gives organizations the power to know.
I like Will Smith. So I’m really chuffed that he took that approach to improving his success. But Gary, what I also like is your highlighting that it’s really about looking for patterns. The insights come from the patterns in our data, not the points of data themselves.
I agree. “Patterns” are just one of many insights that “business analytics” provides. There is much now being written about the application of analytics. It may very well be the next competitive edge for organizations.
Gary Cokins, SAS