One of the pleas in Mark Madsen’s fascinating keynote at the TDWI conference in Las Vegas was to let the “Barts” work. The Barts are, of course, the Bart Simpsons among us, the sometimes nerdy rebels who actually come up with interesting analyses and other useful things.
When the lights went up, a “Bart” was right nearby me at the big round table. Though he “loved” Mark’s salute to his work, consultant Rick Paul wanted more.
As a Bart, he works with a lot of “Marges” and “Homers.” In Mark’s model, the Homers are the everyday business intelligence consumers, about 80 percent of most work groups. The Marges are about 18 percent, and they actually think a little. The last 2 percent are the Barts, the ones who analyze and invent — and who’re limited by the BI systems built for Marge and Homer.
The more painful obstacle facing many Barts, says Rick, isn’t about any technology.
He tells how his team started with three people, all data architects, all smart. “We could do anything,” he recalls. Now the team has 120 members, many of them Homers. They’re of the 80 percent who consume but don’t invent or even think very much. “They’ll fake inability,” he says, “to tempt or coerce the three innovators to do their work. They say, ‘Oh, you’re so good at this. It’ll just take you a few minutes to do this.'” It really does take only a few minutes, but “it’s not thinking work.”
“I’m lazy,” he says, “but when I don’t want to do something, I figure out how to automate it.”
Rick says he’s still trying to figure out how this situation can be resolved. He mentions isolation, but he also thinks of encouraging the 80 Percenters to have some vision for their own careers. They should have some way to “add intelligence to their own work on a daily basis. They should be actively engaged with their work.”
Smaller teams might also work, he says. In a team of 120, it’s easy enough to do nothing for weeks at a time. It’s much harder in a team of, say, seven members.
“The innovators have to be positioned to influence the company,” he says, “but not be abused.”