Saturday, November 16, 2013

Secrets of Innovation and Data Management from Kayak

Terry Jones, former Ceo of Travelocity, spoke a the recent DMA conference at McCormick Place in Chicago.  Mr. Jones not only founded and acted as CIO of Sabre, Inc, but also functions as Chairman of  Terry has a proven track record of leading companies whose innovations have change the travel industry and has used data-driven digital marketing to spur company growth.

We Need Not "Big Data' But "Big Wisdom"

One of Jones'  themes was data-driven digital marketing and its role in innovation.  Terry said, and I agree, that as marketers we don't need 'big data' as much as 'big wisdom'.  Only about one percent of data is acted upon in corporations.  We need people with vision to know how to harness the data the companies already have. Jones said we need to get rid of the "Bozone" Layer that stifles innovation by using smaller, more effective teams and other techniques to encourage new ideas.
bozone layer, innovation
Terry Jones from Kayak on How NOT to Stifle Innovation
Jones spoke of the changes in marketing and the challenges these changes post to marketers.  He said it took 40,000 years for men to invent the fishing net, another 23,000 to invent the fish hook and less than four years for the majority of American households to have a tablet computer.   When customers trust reviews from people they have never met on the internet instead of the brand, the customer is extremely powerful, "wired and dangerous."  And this customer expects your site to be the best, 24 by 7.

We Must Inspire Employees to Innovate

To reach the current customer, who is Internet empowered, tech savvy, time starved and information, rich requires managing and inspiriting innovation in the corporation.  This approach is consistent with research my co-authors and I have conducted on how to organize effectively to manage data in the corporation.  This research indicates that top management support is critical in creating quality, actionable data.  We have also conducted research about how data is used throughout the corporation in the innovation process.

Using his own firm as an example of innovation, Jones said that Kayak relies heavily on data analysis in designing its web site.  He said 20% of everything you see at the Kayak web site is a a test and that he encourages testing and does not punish failure.   He encouraged companies to "Kill Projects, Not People" and hire people who don’t 'fit' the mold.  He also said most innovation comes from the bottom, from those who are talking to customers.

Those Who Survive, Adapt

Jones quoted Darwin saying those who survive are not the biggest and stronger but those who most respond and adapt to change.  Today, we can use the internet and data analysis to build virtual firms that react quickly.  Jones said Kayak, a comparison engine for travel sites, went public for 1.8 billion dollars using open source code, search engine technology and only 220 people.  Certainly this model poses a challenge to us all to innovate and create by managing our people and data well and using 'wisdom' and not just 'data.'

By Debra Zahay-Blatz.
You can find Debra on  and Twitter as well as LinkedIn.