Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

What can BI managers learn from the restaurant business? Plenty.

I’ve never eaten in one of Danny Meyer’s restaurants, but I did have my first Shake Shack burger during a 2011 trip to New York City to teach classes on SAP BusinessObjects administration. In honor of Shake Shack’s recent IPO (see SHAK quote on Yahoo Finance), I found a copy of Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business at Half Price Books (ISBN 978-0060742751).

Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Service is a monologue— we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality , on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response.

Danny Meyer in Setting the Table

Shake Shack Vegas 2015

In our zeal pursuing “self-service business intelligence”, we’ve often left users on their own, without any helpful assistance at all. Is it any surprise that software vendors are responding with both client and server solutions that business users can install and support themselves?

Shake Shack Los Vegas 2015

Mr. Meyer offers an interesting perspective on hiring. The Union Square Hospitality Group looks for 51 percenters, regardless of whether its hiring a dishwasher, server, or chef. Ideal candidates have 51 percent emotional hospitality and 49 percent technical excellence. Mr. Meyer offers 5 attributes to look for when hiring your own 51 percenters.

The overarching concern to do the right thing well isn’t something we can’t train for. Either it’s there or it isn’t. So we need to train how to hire for it.

Even excellent employees make mistakes, and Mr. Meyer offers a chapter entitled “The Road to Success is Paved with Mistakes Well Handled” and provides some excellent tips about going the next mile and “writing the last chapter” on a guest’s less than stellar experience.

Shake Shack Vegas 2015 01 600

Business users aren’t accustomed to getting hospitality from their IT department. Most, sadly, aren’t accustomed to even getting good service. But an effective Business Intelligence Competency Center must aim for a higher standard. You may be wondering what a book about restaurants can teach you about business intelligence, but I believe successful BI managers will be inspired to write lots of notes in the margins as they read this book.

And plan a trip to the Shake Shack.

IMPORTANT! If you’re headed to SAP Insider’s BI 2015 and HANA 2015 conferences in Las Vegas, there’s a Shake Shack right around the corner.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Creativity, Inc.

A thought-provoking book for those that inspire and motivate teams.

Ed Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. Dr. Catmull is a recognized pioneer in the field of computer animation and joined George Lucas at Lucasfilm in 1979. What we now know as Pixar would be spun off and acquired in 1986 by none other than Steve Jobs, who simultaneously led both Pixar and NeXT Computer after his exile from Apple Computer. Creativity, Inc., Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration (Random House, 2014, ISBN 978-0812993011) documents not only Dr. Catmull’s journey, but also the journey of computer animation from a university research topic to SIGGRAPH short films like Red’s Dream and Tin Toy to 1995’s Toy Story, the first fully computer animated film. In my college days, I would watch Pixar shorts at computer animation festivals. Now that I’m a parent, I still have a valid “excuse” to see each and every Pixar film.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Judging Pixar’s exceptional track record, it might not seem that its employees need help being creative. But every one of its films has struggled at some point during its development. What Pixar has developed over the years, under Ed Catmull’s leadership, is an evolving set of principles and practices that help it deliver award-winning stories that touch the hearts of children and adults alike.

We tend to think only of artists and musicians when the topic of creativity is mentioned. But creativity underlies nearly every human endeavor, including business intelligence. And not just the visual aspects of our work. Data architecture and integration require just as much creativity as data visualization. What I most appreciated about this book was its insights on how a diverse group of professionals can learn to work more effectively together, be more candid in giving feedback and more gracious in receiving it.

A thought-provoking book for those that inspire and motivate teams.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Ghost Map

This book is a must-read for all data visualization professionals, not just those in healthcare.

A few months ago, Andrew Fox demonstrated how to use SAP Lumira with geospatial mapping via its ESRI integration (see SAP Community Network article, Integrating SAP Lumira and ESRI mapping to deliver Location Intelligence). For his data set, Andrew used the map created in 1854 by physician John Snow in the midst of a cholera outbreak in London. I was able to learn more about the 1854 cholera outbreak by reading The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (Penguin, ISBN 978-1594482694), who creates a gripping historical narrative. The Ghost Map itself was created by Dr. John Snow, a physician who was puzzled why some people contracted cholera and others did not.

The map is a brilliant work of information design and epidemiology, no doubt. But it is also an emblem of a certain kind of community— the densely intertwined lives of a metropolitan neighborhood— an emblem that, paradoxically, was made possible by a savage attack on that community.

Steven Johnson in The Ghost Map

Even though John Snow’s map clearly pointed to the Broad Street water pump, his analysis did not immediately gain traction. The prevailing understanding of disease in the mid-nineteenth century was the miasma theory, or literally “bad air”. It was thought that diseases such as cholera were carried by the foul smells. Psychologists refer to the inability to accept new facts that don’t agree with our assumptions as confirmation bias, something that humanity still combats today whether its a high-profile science issue like climate change or just the data in our monthly reports. But Dr. Snow finds an unlikely collaborator in the Reverend Henry Whitehead, who was originally skeptical of Dr, Snow’s research but won over based on his first-hand knowledge of the cholera victims in his parish.

It’s easy to look at 19th century scientific understanding with a critical eye from our perspective in the 21st century and our understanding of the germ theory of disease. I imagine there will be scientific discoveries made over the next 100 years that make our own present understanding of the physical world seem quaint to the citizens of the next century.

This book is a must-read for all data visualization professionals, not just those in healthcare.

UPDATE: SAP published the following 3-minute documentary about John Snow, How Data Turned a Doctor Into a Hero, on October 14, 2015.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics

A handy desktop reference from the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics by Dona Wong (ISBN 978-0393072952) is a handy reference for creating visualizations. I noticed a copy at my local library and decided to check it out. Dona Wong is currently working at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, but- as the title suggests- previously spent nine years working at the Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she earned an MFA at Yale where none other than Edward Tufte was her thesis advisor.

The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics by Dona Wong

The subtitle of the book is “The dos and don’ts of presenting data, facts and figures”. Its five chapters are organized into a series of easy-to-digest infographics illustrating various data visualization concepts. The book is more of a desktop reference and less of a tutorial. Some Ms. Wong’s advice isn’t actionable because the tools that we use won’t support the best practices. But users of SAP Lumira visualization extensions will appreciate the best practices for pictograms. And while the book discusses how to use color, it doesn’t provide RGB codes for the recommended color palettes. But on the whole, there’s a lot of good information presented in a small amount of space.

Stephen Few wasn’t terribly impressed (see related article, What can the Wall Street Journal teach us about information graphics?). Although it seems a bit self serving on his part, I don’t disagree with Mr. Few that some concepts are difficult to describe in a few words. Or that the guide is mostly a reformatted internal style guide for the Wall Street Journal. Data visualization professionals are better off sticking with more robust books by Stephen Few (see related book reviews) and Edward Tufte. But this book is a handy desktop reference that will help the business users that we support avoid common pitfalls and make better visualizations.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook

The SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook is a solid addition to the growing number of books about SAP analytics.

One of the benefits of SAP being the world’s largest vendor of business intelligence software is the number of books available on the subject. We can now add SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook by Yoah Yahav to our bookshelves (ISBN 978-1782172437). The book title says “reporting”, but the book is all about Web Intelligence, not Crystal Reports. And “cookbook” means that the book is filled with over 80 different “recipes” for performing various query and report design activities using Web Intelligence. If you prefer step-by-step tutorials rather than a reference format, you’ll really like this book. Some topics, like data visualization, are covered with more of a reference approach and less of a step-by-step approach.

SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook

The book is covers a broad range of topics, sandwiching chapters on query and report design with an introduction to the BI Launch Pad and concluding with scheduling, BI workspaces, and the Web Intelligence Rich Client. Most of the examples use the eFashion and Island Resorts universes, which are easy to find since eFashion is often pre-installed with product samples and Island Resorts can be loaded from the SAP BusinessObjects sample folder. However some of the advanced query examples like subqueries and combined queries use the Motors universe, which is used by SAP’s classroom training for universe design and a bit more challenging to find and install.

With most of us buying our books online, we no longer have the luxury of thumbing through multiple books at the book store and choosing the one that seems the best fit for our own personality. However, BI competency centers can create their own browsing experience- a reference shelf that places the SAP BusinessObjects Reporting Cookbook alongside other titles like Cindi Howson’s Complete Reference (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects 4.0: The Complete Reference) or the book I helped write for SAP Press (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide). As SAP analytics professionals, it’s great to know that so much help is available from so many different sources.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

When Fish Fly

World famous customer service can be achieved even if you aren’t, well, world-famous.

World Famous Pike Place Fish Market
image courtesy PikePlaceFish.com

When Fish Fly: Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace (ISBN 978-1401300616) is a small book that’s easy to read on an airplane or over a weekend but its wisdom might take years to master. Written by John Yokoyama, founder of the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington and Joseph Michelli, author and organizational consultant, the book describes how the popular Pike Place Market attraction became “World Famous”.

What started out as a joke to be “world famous” became a vision to provide world-famous customer service in a small, seemingly insignificant 1,200 square foot fish stand. The company has indeed become world famous, with media exposure and a thriving public speaking business. But the decision to be world famous is something that must be continuously nurtured by each employee, starting with its CEO.

As we continued to contemplate the meaning of world fame as it related to us, it became clear that we intended to make a world famous difference by having a positive impact upon each person we encountered. To this day, we continue to define world fame as situations come up a the market. What is it to be world famous, for example, when things are slow at work? What does world famous look like when customer treat us badly?

Management is frequently concerned about what employees are doing, but exceptional customer service begins with the inner game- the mental attitude behind our actions. This book has challenged me to self-monitor and ask myself, as John Yokoyama does many times each day, “Who am I being right now?” and to define myself not only by productivity, but by my ability to make a positive impact on each person I encounter.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

More Awesome Than Money

We can and should find meaning in our life’s work. But we’ll remain empty if that’s the only place we expect to find it.

Dan Grippi.

Rafi Sofaer.

Ilya Zhitomirskiy.

Max Salzberg.

None of these men have the name recognition of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, or Tumblr’s David Karp. But in 2011 while enrolled at New York University, these four men conceived Diaspora, a social network and reaction to Facebook’s lack of concern for privacy.

More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys and Their Heroic Quest to Save Your Privacy from Facebook (Viking, 2014, ISBN 978-0670025602) was written by Jim Dwyer, who was a fly on the wall from nearly the very beginning of the project. Diaspora’s creation had many twists and turns, including the downward spiral of depression and suicide of one of its founders, Ilya Zhitomirskiy.

More Awesome than Money book coverMr. Dwyer’s storytelling reminded me of Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, which I had read in high school and was required to read again during a third-year computer architecture course in college. Perhaps More Awesome Than Money should be required reading for today’s computer science students, eager to create the next Instagram or Snapchat.

The book challenged my thinking on social media, privacy, the Wikileaks controversy, and even enterprise software vendors’ rush to accumulate corporate data in the cloud. It brought back memories of my own participation in a pre-dot-com-bomb startup adventure. And it reminded me that while we can and should find meaning in our life’s work, we’ll remain empty if that’s the only place we expect to find it.

Christine Rosen summarizes the lesson of Diaspora, now an open source project, better than I can. She writes in her review published in the Wall Street Journal:

The tragedy of Diaspora isn’t that its creators failed to create a new and better Facebook. It’s that a young man who hoped to build a better online social network had a real one so weak that he apparently was able to hide his downward spiral into suicidal depression.

I am a bit disappointed but not surprised that I was unable to find book reviews on the tech web sites that I follow regularly. After all, those sites exist to glorify the tech startup culture and overlook its excesses. But I have linked to book reviews from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post so you can read other opinions about the book. I was lucky to be the first person to borrow a copy from my local library and I hope you’ll be able to read this important story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

For Love of Country

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz challenges us to do more for our veterans.

For Love of Country coverFor Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice (ISBN 978-1101874455) is a new book by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Washington Post war correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The book begins with five stories of bravery from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. It concludes with five stories of the sacrifice and service veterans continue to make upon returning home. You’ll meet real and unforgettable heroes like a sixty-year-old physician that follows his fallen son in military service and a nine-year-old boy who requested “Soldier of Kindness” as the engraving on his father’s tombstone.

I found the book difficult to read yet also difficult to put down. Like Starbucks’ chairman, I too am inspired to do more than just say “thank you” and move on. The book’s web site lists several ways we can all do that.

Proceeds from the sale of For Love of Country are donated to Onward Veterans, a donor-advised fund of the Schultz Family Foundation that supports the successful transition of military veterans and their families.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tales of the Siren: A Starbucks Melody

What happens when a Seattleite starts a blog about her favorite coffee shop?

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time it’s pretty hard to miss that I’m a big fan of Starbucks. Nearly every morning begins with a Grande cup of brewed goodness from the Starbucks tucked inside my local grocery store. On other days, I’ll tear open a Via packet and make coffee at home. Starbucks has elevated our view of coffee and ignited our desire to make connections with other people in the “third place” created by their stores. I’m firmly convinced that Starbucks can teach us how to create better human connections in our organizations, making the BI Competency Center the “third place” between an office worker’s cubicle and the IT department.

Starbucks cups

Tales of the Siren: A Starbucks Melody (ISBN 978-1499344202) is a book written by a fellow blogger named Melody Overton who created the Starbucks Melody blog. Being a passionate Starbucks fan in Starbucks’ hometown of Seattle has given her a unique perspective on the company. She’s woven her stories into a book that is “the other Onward”, covering roughly the same period that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz writes about (see my related book review for Onward).

After reading Melody’s book, I’m convinced that I must add visiting Seattle and attending a Starbucks shareholder meeting to my bucket list. If you’re a fan of Starbucks, you’ll enjoy Melody’s unique perspective. And if you’re a blogger, whether you blog about Starbucks, stamp collecting, or Scandinavia, you’ll learn some valuable lessons about how Melody has pursued authenticity over audience (although she has ample amounts of both).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tribes by Seth Godin, a review

We need you to lead us.

Tribes by Seth Godin

I just finished Tribes (ISBN 978-1591842330), a 160-page book by Seth Godin that you can read on an airplane flight, as I did. A tribe, according to Seth Godin, is “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” Tribes aren’t something that need to be formed- they already exist. There are tribes in your workplace, in your church, in your volunteer organization. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.  And with the advent of social media technology, tribes aren’t just local. They can have a global scale as people with common interests can “find” each other easily. But what many of these tribes need is a leader, and Mr. Godin makes the argument that the leader should be you (hence the subtitle “We Need You to Lead Us”).

The book is descriptive, not prescriptive (no checklists for becoming a tribal leader). But it does include profiles of some interesting people- leaders that Mr. Godin classifies as heretics. These folks aren’t as well-known as classic heretics like Steve Jobs, but you can do a Google search on their names and find other articles to read about most of them.

The alternative to being a heretic is being a “sheepwalker”. What are you waiting for? Making change is more fun that accepting the status quo.

Go.

Here’s Seth Godin’s TED talk about tribes.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”