John MacLeod, a recent graduate of the MS in Analytics program has earned his BS Mechanical Engineering from Duke University in 1988, a BA in Music from Duke University in 1989 and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in 1995. John attended the 2016 Disney Data Analytics Conference in Orlando Aug. 31 – Sept. 1 and came back with some great connections and insight.
John made great use of time, attending over half a dozen break-out sessions with a few standout favorites. One such favorite being Constructing Consumer Choices: Simple Nudges Improve Consumer Experiences and Decisions which highlighted the importance of behavioral sciences in any human-centric analytics. A second favorite, Genetic Algorithms For Improving Modeling Process And Results, discussed the fascinating, emerging way to optimize models in high-dimensional, complex situations due to a rare combination of speed, scalability and explanatory power.
Other breakout sessions included:
- Optimization 101
- Authentically Disney And Distinctly Chinese: Optimizing Shanghai Disney Resort Opening Training. This session emphasized the strategic used of Mixed Integer Linear Programming using CPLEX, combined with Ad Hoc Access/Excel procedures to optimize the on-boarding and training of 10,000 new employees in just 20 weeks for the opening of Disney Shanghai.
- Viral Cascades in Social Networks Which focused on improving the viral spread of marketing efforts (homophile, human adoption curves, transmission mechanisms).
- The Statistical Crisis In Science, And How We Can Do Better Using Hierarchical Bayes A wonderfully entertaining skewering of statistical misuse in the social sciences.
An interesting fact the Disney Data Analytics Conference brought to light explained that the more chances a consumer gets to make a choice, the better their perception that they have truly customized an item for themselves.
If a company makes 12 different coffee mugs, a combination of 4 colors and 3 pictures, 2 ways they can offer mug selections to a consumer are as follows:
A) Offer the consumer a choice from all 12 pictured at once, maybe 20% would say they "customized their selection"
B) Show them a white mug and ask them to choose a color (from the 4 options existing in inventory). Then show them the blank mug, in their color choice and ask them to choose a picture (from the 3 in inventory), and 60-70% might say "yes I customized my mug".
If a customer feels that they have customized their item it can then lead to more desirable results such as the ability to charge a higher price or more satisfied customer.
In short, Disney analyzes everything! There are over 800 people within the Walt Disney Company companies in departments that have "Analytics" or "Insights" as part of the department name. They go so far as to analyze how well their corporate leadership training impacts the career path and development of attendees’ years later. Everyone was very gracious and generous with their time and supportive of my interests. Simply a wildly impressive company and analytics operation, with a great deal of movement across and between departments and locations worldwide. This conference left John with a new appreciation for the many facets of analytics and how his coursework can be applied to any company, any industry, and even the happiest place on earth.
To learn more, connect with John here.