What Does Zen Have to do with Data Management and Data Governance?

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Click to learn more about author Len Silverston.

Lately, I have been conducting a class at numerous data conferences such as the Data Governance Conference called “Zen with Len” or “Zen and The Art of Data Management.”

The last session I gave was well attended, but one person asked, “What does Zen have to do with data Management or Data Governance?”

I answered, “Everything.”

One definition for Data Governance is ‘”A discipline that provides clear-cut policies; procedures; standards; roles; responsibilities; and accountabilities to ensure that data is well-managed as an enterprise resource.” One Data Management definition is “the development and execution of architectures, policies, practices and procedures in order to manage the information lifecycle needs of an enterprise in an effective manner.”

Thus, Data Management and Data Governance are about managing the data to be more effective. That is what Zen is!

Zen means “awareness” in Japanese. It means seeing what is really happening and taking wise actions based upon it. In other words, it means seeing the real ‘data’ and then acting with wisdom. What is wisdom? The etymology of the word wisdom comes from the Latin derivatives, ‘wis’ and ‘dom’. ‘Wis’ comes from the Latin word ‘visionem’, meaning “vision” or “to see.” ‘Dom’ is Latin for “from”implying that in wisdom, we act from being able to see closer to the truth of things (i.e., the real ‘data’). Aristotle said, “Practical wisdom is a true characteristic that is bound up with action, accompanied by reason …” (i.e., based in data, not emotions).

Another way to say this is that in Zen and in wisdom, we act from the ‘data’, not from stories, emotions, skewed perspectives, and/or judgments of what we think are happening. While it is important to be aware of our emotions and also act with a good heart, it is also wise to be conscious of ‘what is’ (again, the data).

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author E. O. Wilson said, “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology. It is terrifically dangerous and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”

In business and in life, when there is conflict or difficult situations, we often act emotionally and not in tune with the real data or with reality. Often, an event that we do not want occurs and we have thoughts and feelings about it. Then, most of the time (according to a great deal of research), we react in a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle), robotic, pre-programmed, inappropriate manner that often leads to negative consequences. If this behavior is repeated many times (which it often is), then this can lead to what could be called ‘a mess’. This is also what I believe is the leading cause of enterprise wide Data Management failures.

What is the solution? Zen. Real Business Intelligence. Let’s be aware. Let’s understand — not ‘overstand’, in other words let’s not just see the tip of the iceberg. Let’s have insight. Let’s see what is really going on. Let’s have vision that is closer to the reality of the situation.

How can we do that? We must use something to intervene. What is that something

The data.

Instead of reacting with our emotions in illogical and often inappropriate “fight, flight, or freeze” patterns, if we intercede by really understanding the actual data, we can then intelligently respond with real business intelligence.

Therefore, let’s implement Data Analytics or Data Analysis. In other words, let’s perform Data Analytics or Data Analysis to understand and see what is going on to act wisely.

For example, if we can gain access to data that is voluntarily given to us so that we can better serve them, manage it appropriately to earn trust, and use it to better understand our customers and provide them with the products and services that will be most helpful to them, then we are moving towards effective Data Analytics.

To summarize, we can use data to better understand the nature of reality, be of greater service, and take wise, practical actions — in other words, be Zen.

Please see either of my sites and/or contact me if I can be of further service to you. Wishing you prosperity and joy by being Zen with the data.


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