To be "enterprising" is to be eager to undertake or prompt to attempt. To show initiative and be resourceful. These are leadership traits, so to be enterprising is to lead. "Analytics" is how we use data to inform decision-making, in the context of achieving business objectives. These are management practices, so analytics is about management.\n\n\n"Enterprising Analytics" is about being creative, resourceful and adventurous with decision-making to achieve business objectives. It is about the set of leadership and management practices that need to be in place for an organization to make the most of its analytics investment.\n\nCompetitive advantage isn't what we think it is\n\nCompetitive advantage used to mean something. For a short period of time and in a limited sense.\n\n\nMichael Porter started shaping the term as business professionals now understand it in 1979, but the word competitive hadn't entered general usage until the mid-19th century. Prior to that, the word compete had two meanings: to "be in rivalry" or "to work in common." In the Golden Age of the Management Consultant, the former meaning was preferred. In the Discredited Age of the Management Consultant, people are returning to the latter.\n\n\n"Competitive advantage" is a handy abstraction. It sounds clever to say something is good for competitive advantage, and others will nod on cue. The term is not something many people will challenge. The logic seems self-evident. And to question the idea is often seen as questioning the person. And if it\u2019s the boss who says it\u2019s good for competitive advantage, who\u2019s going to argue?\n\nAnalytics changes your value network\n\nAnalytics, apparently, is good for competitive advantage. It\u2019s fundamental to the sales pitch. The strategic CxO, however, is wary of analytics being sold as Eau de Avantage Competitif. Rita Gunther McGrath hints why in her 2013 book The End of Competitive Advantage:\n\n\n\u201c...deeply ingrained structures and systems that executives rely on to extract maximum value from a competitive advantage are liabilities \u2014 outdated and even dangerous \u2014 in a fast-moving competitive environment.\u201d\n\n\nThe \u201cdeeply ingrained\u201d bit takes us into the murky world of\u00a0bounded rationality. Or anchoring, depending on how generous you want to be. Whatever the case, investing in an enterprise analytics suite on the grounds that it\u2019s going to get you ahead of the competition isn\u2019t a winning strategy. That\u2019s because strategic CxOs aren\u2019t using analytics to compete outside their organizations' value networks. They're using it to change the idea of what the organization is within its value network.\n\nAnalytics are about 'working in common'\n\nStrategic CxOs\u00a0understand competitive in the older sense of working in common. They're also aware of how narrowly applicable competitive is in the sense of \u201cacting in rivalry.\u201d Because competitive advantage as a concept doesn\u2019t really apply to the public sector, nor to internal service business units.\u00a0\n\n\nYes, there will always be people who will find a way to make it apply. Anything can be squeezed into a small space if you're not worried about the integrity of the thing being squeezed.\n\n\nTake the word customer, which many a public agency uses as a surrogate abstraction for those to whom the agency has a duty of service. But a customer is a person who can refuse service. This doesn\u2019t usually apply to citizens or other internal business units.\n\nAnalytics and the dangers of abstraction\n\nSo, \u201ccompetitive advantage\u201d doesn\u2019t apply to many organizations. And if it does, it tends to get you in trouble. If you\u2019re still comfortable justifying this doctrine in the name of business, take a moment to consider the moral dimension that is (conveniently) hidden behind the abstraction.\n\n\nAn abstraction is \u201cthe quality of dealing with ideas rather than events.\u201d That in itself should make strategic CxOs uneasy. Strange things happen to our capacity to consider the humanity of our actions when we live in a world of abstractions. Simon Sinek confronted us with this in his 2014 book Leaders Eat Last:\n\n\n\u201cAnything that separates us from the impact our words and actions have on other people has the potential to lead us down a dangerous path. As Milgram showed us, when we cannot see the impact of our decisions, when the lives of people become an abstraction, 65% of us have the capacity to kill someone.\u201d\n\nAnalytics and the crisis of leadership\n\nSinek was referring to Stanley Milgram\u2019s infamous 1961 Yale experiment on obedience to authority. Why is this relevant? Because as I wrote this article, a Google search on the term leadership generated more than 756 million hits. We are in a crisis of leadership, and this IMHO is, in part, down to our established culture of putting layers of abstraction between senior leadership and the people affected by our decisions. Again, here's what Sinek wrote:\n\n\n\u201cWhen our relationships with customers or employees become abstract concepts, we naturally pursue the most tangible thing we can see \u2014 the metrics.\u201d\n\n\nAnd what does analytics mean to most people? Metrics. Numbers. Abstractions.\n\n\nThis is why the strategic CxO takes a pinch of salt when she hears \u201ccompetitive advantage\u201d mentioned in connection to analytics. It\u2019s not smart, it\u2019s not relevant and it\u2019s not good. Chasing advantage in rivalry takes leaders down dangerous paths. Coming to terms with working in common is, however, an entirely different story. And the strategic CxO knows that this is what analytics is actually about.