Cristian Guajardo Garcia

Business Strategy

where data and creativity collide

Ada was right before you were born (close the gap)

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The problem

I’m reading a book that got me thinking about my experience as a student, worker and business man. About my education and the way I have been formed as a highly competitive professional.

In case you are wondering, the book is Ahead of the curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School by journalist Philip Delves Broughton.

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One of my biggest personal and professional achievements has been getting an MBA from a prestigious b-school, not only surviving the hectic experience, but achieving an academic results I’m extremely proud of.

As a student I moved in both sides of the line. By sides, I mean the extremely creative and as an MBA, the extremely engineering and structured side.

My bachelor is in advertising, specialized in creativity and marketing.

At some point I thought of advertising as this far cousin of an artist and an engineer. A middle brother no one really cared about and ended up there, sometimes doing remarkable stunts but most of the time, trapped in a cookie cutter job. A paradox in which the creative industry, “the one” called to be funny, fresh and daring, was prisoner of clients demanding work that crushed the human spirit in all of its form.

Because let’s be honest, have you ever met an advertiser? they age faster, get fat and missed important moments in their own lives (not to mention everyone elses). And even though they still wear fluorescent shades, tight pants and travel to Cannes once a year (if they are lucky) they move in this roman like life in which only a few will survive to climb the success ladder and later on, do anything to keep the youngsters trapped and locked.

As a student, I was taught to spend nights without sleeping. My classmates wore this batch as if it was priceless a war medal. This stupid bunch of kids were being brainwashed; only to be transformed into pieces of a faceless machine. They never tried to cheat the game and instead of working harder, working smarter. Taking advantage of all the flaws you can collect while you walk your walk (only if you pay attention, McCoy).

Advertising never taught us frameworks, methodologies and most importantly, a way of thinking properly. And please, I’m not talking about a canvas or a gantt chart. I’m talking about how to get trained in thinking by ourselves while facing intellectual challenges in which scarce resources where a daily problem.

Let’s move to the dark side

Later on, and after collecting several experiences in the real world, I got admitted to do my MBA in Italy.

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I have chosen this school because of its engineering. A polytechnic its a place in which God is science and that was exactly what I was looking for. I got bored of following the arts, I wanted to go to the arms of the enemy, to those worshiping numbers and not creativity.

I have to tell you, I f*cking bled to get my Diploma. For me was hard and tiring. But I learn tons and tons. I got a huge ROI if you ask me. I would do it 10,000 times again.

After getting married to “creativity” and latter on cheating with “the science”? What did I learn?

I have to tell you that grandma Ada was completely right. And yes, everyone knows what to do after the war is done. Maybe you, reading this, will be like “you had to spent all that time just to realize that the key is reaching a balance between creativity and numbers? Come on McCoy!” But yes, I had to.

And this whole story would not be worth telling if that was the ending. The issue is everyone, talks about this but in the real world, no one do it.

In India, when I travel to get trained in businesses, most of the people were IT engineers that were used to play within boundaries and would not dare to move any further. And when you had a black sheep, it would lack business acumen and numerical frameworks (financial statements for once.)

So, where is the problem? Its in the schools. Both, my advertising and MBA schools were enemies (even though they don’t know about each other). They were both jealous of their methods and giving away their secret sauce (whatever that is) to the enemy. So, they kept isolated and horse-like walking.

Broad vs Deep ocean

I can’t help but ask, What do the world really needs? Someone highly specialized (a deep ocean) or someone who looks more like a T-Shaped professional (broad ocean)?

Let me tell you I do agree when Atul Gawande, surgeon and writer, who says in a field as medicine you do need highly specialized professionals, going as far as having a left and right ear specialists (yes, Im “sort of kidding”).

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But is it like that? Not in my experience. Now that I’m analyzing data and trying to hear what the numbers say I have understand that math and storytelling are meant to each other. IBM for instance, runs its Big Data area with data scientist that are mostly computer scientists, statisticians, economists and mathematicians. Fair enough. It works. But then Im with them. And do believe me I can bring so many things to the table. Thing different and (I chose to believe) complementary to their excellent job.

Am I too weird or stupid to be playing with data being “an advertiser”?

The head of NYT, Guardian or Clarin do not think so; those media giants are nurturing this weird specie of data journalists, people trained in telling a story supported by charts and huge numbers. We are talking about the same guys that were going to the street with a camera and a Moleskine to register the story of the day.

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The author of the book I mentioned early on - Philip Delves Broughton- was among them. Dread to face finances or accounting because of its null experience with numbers. Was his fault? Hell no. Was my fault not to be trained with numbers and logical thinking?

A cookie for you, you got it right . NO!

I do think our scenario cries for a professional with a broad ocean. Or even a broad and somehow deep ocean. God damn it! we might have to stretch the boundaries and maybe come up with a third definition (this is the advertiser that lives within). This type of professional however, is nowhere to be found. That is why “anyone” can be a data scientist (not anyone, but hopefully you follow my idea) and you have a journalist data crunching hard. Something that never happened before.

We are going through such deep changes that I have no idea what the scenario my kids will face. More than proper skills, I shall give them tools to deal with the unexpected and be resilient (because they will have to fight hard to reach its happiness).

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Is in this dark ocean in which School appear to be the lighthouse we all look for.

The bad part is that I look hard for those new game changers but I still don’t find them. Those schools that are melting their curricula and fostering new professionals are too shy to speak up or even dare to dream.

Is it that hard to look back and hear grandma Ada? Is it too hard to blend creativity and sciences? I know I’m on it. What about you?

Cristian Guajardo Garcia (cc) by-nc-sa | Made in London, UK |  2005 - 2017