May 10, 2017

Which topics should CPD, for Customer Insight leaders, cover?

By Paul Laughlin

CPDA few different parts, of my practice, periodically remind me about Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

As a leadership coach, the co-coaching events or workshops I attend, are counted towards CPD credits for my Association for Coaching membership. As an Institute of Direct & Digital Marketing member & marker, I also get annual reminders to register any personal development activities over the year. Plus, I am regularly mailed by the Institute of Directors, with suggested courses, qualifications or other resources to sustain my CPD.

Awash with all this potential content, it is easy to lose track of what really matters. CPD schemes can have the danger of encouraging volume or frequency rather than relevance. Any leader should ask themselves: What do I need to develop further for my current role or future challenges? What is most relevant to me at this stage?

So, given the focus of this blog is the Customer Insight Leadership community, I started wondering which topics I would encourage. So, it was time for another review of the blogs, podcasts & newsletters I frequent, to come up with collection to share with you. I hope you find it useful.

The Science behind Data Visualisation – why it matters & what to use

One key topic, for insight & analytics leaders to learn more about, is data visualisation. So often, the way information is presented has greater bearing on its impact than the strength of evidence or quality of data. So, those leaders wanting to communicate important data insights, need to master data visualisation.

One good place to start is this post from the Creative Blog. In it, Graham Odds shares some useful guidance from behavioural science and visualisation experts (including Alberto Cairo & Stephen Few). It is a useful reminder that there is strong scientific evidence that it’s worth crafting an effective visual representation of your analysis data:

The science behind data visualisation

Over the last couple of centuries, data visualisation has developed to the point where it is in everyday use across all walks of life. Many recognise it as an effective tool for both storytelling and analysis, overcoming most language and educational barriers. But why is this?

Getting your intelligence around Machine Learning and its practical applications

Lately there seems to have been a real resurgence in the provision & promotion of free online courses (including MOOCs). Amongst the people I follow on Twitter & LinkedIn, I’ve seen several different lists of suggested free courses on Data Science or other aspects of analytics. Which is a welcome development.

One list I noticed, covers a topic which several leaders have mentioned to me is one they feel exposed on. That is, they feel they ought to understand more, but find it difficult to justify any significant investment, without knowing if it will be relevant. The topic is Machine Learning or AI.

I was reminded of some of those conversations, when I saw this list, published on the Class Central blog. As part 5 of a 6 part series on the best MOOCs for launching yourself into a Data Science career, this is a massive resource with details of how courses were selected and the syllabus they provide. Well worth reviewing for one to suit you.

CPD Machine Learning

Keeping up to date on what others are doing to prepare for GDPR

Next we really have to talk about keeping up to date with data regulation. I know I have already dedicated a two part series of posts to the subject of what you need to consider when preparing for GDPR enforcement, but this is a big deal. The scale of fines & potential impact on consumer behaviour mean any self respecting data/analytics/insight leader needs to keep on top of it.

As with much principle based regulation, in competitive markets, businesses want to know what others are doing – to avoid being either ‘whiter than whiter‘ or ‘behind the curve‘. The ICO will no doubt be looking for early examples, but the scale of change required by over-compliance could also be too costly for most companies.

One of the best free CPD sources of information, on both emerging ‘best practice‘ and research on ‘readiness‘, inc. the actions others are taking, is the DataIQ. They regularly publish white papers, research reports and hold briefing or discussion events. I would encourage everyone to add, at least regular skim reading, to their CPD plan. Here is one report to get you started:


Don’t overlook your leadership skills

Amidst such a list of technical CPD resources, I want to stay true to the purpose of this blog. That is to encourage best practice in the leadership of customer insight (inc. data, analytics, research & database marketing) teams. The missing component in our list, so far, is leadership skills.

These are not achieved by a one off intervention, but rather honed by a lifetime of practice (e.g. trial & error). But, it does seem to be a truism, that “those who lead, read“. I have certainly found taking time out to read well written leadership books to be a real help in sparking ideas of approaches & habits to try.

With so many leadership books out there, where does a busy Customer Insight leader start? Well, one possible solution is to benefit from other leaders existing curations of the books they rate most highly…

One list I would recommend is this free PDF published by the extensive & ever interesting Coaching for Leaders podcast (hosted by Dave Stachowiak). It lists 11 crucial books that every leader should know & there is plenty of wisdom in their list. I particularly like the mix of ‘ancient & modern‘, from all time classics, to books everyone is talking about now. Take a look:

11 Crucial Books for leaders

How are you spending your CPD time?

I hope at least some of the above resources are useful to you, for your CPD. It seems the theme of our content this month is ‘learning’. From posts on the impact of environment on your thinking, to ones covering knowledge management & domain knowledge. It has just emerged, but it sounds like it’s useful.

It would also be great to hear back from you readers. What topics are you focussing on for your CPD? Where do you want to develop?

If you’ve found any CPD resources that have helped you, please do also share in the comments below. Thanks.