Big Data + Organizational Leadership = Evidence-Based Decision Making

Natasha Katchuk


This article was originally published by Edwards School of Business. 

Over 260 attendees from around the province gathered on May 18 for a day of collaboration with evidence-based practitioners who represent various industries such as business, health, technology, sports, and education.

Hosted by the Edwards School of Business, the third annual event was entitled “Evidence-Based Decision Making.”

The day began with Master of Ceremonies, Neil McMillan. Drawing from his experience as the former President and CEO of Claude Resources, he touched on the importance of data usage in the mining sector.

Keynote speaker, Kristina McElheran of the University of Toronto, gave a talk on “Data in Action,” or how to turn the revolution in measurement into a revolution in management. Based on her experiences at Harvard Business School, MIT, and Rotman, Kristina emphasized the steps that firms and individuals can take to use data to improve performance.

Sports Centre’s Darren Dutchyshen lead the next keynote, and Gregg Sauter of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Deniece Kennedy of the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation joined him for an interactive panel. They began by discussing sports analytics and quickly delved into retail strategy and customer experience, revealing how organizations track personal and consumer data.

The conference also included the annual Grandey Leadership Luncheon where the Edwards School of Business proudly unveiled Keith Martell as the 2017 Grandey Leadership Honouree. Keith is a member of Saskatchewan’s Waterhen Lake First Nation and one of the founders of the First Nations Bank of Canada. In 2001, The Globe & Mail’s Report on Business Magazine named Martell as a member of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, a prestigious list of business and social leaders.

Over the course of the luncheon, Keith spoke to the audience about rethinking the role of leadership. Referencing the unsung heroes in his life, he suggested anyone can become a leader if they make a choice. At a basic level, Keith broke it down to a set of skills and traits and contextualized leadership. He placed importance on attributes such as self-awareness but underscored that capacity to lead can also take place through hard work and dedication.

New to the Leadership Conference this year was the choice of concurrent sessions in the afternoon for participants. Guest speakers included David Finch (Mount Royal University) who provided tips for becoming an evidence-based leader, Vanesa Vanstone (Saskatoon Health Region) who led an interactive session on change leadership and actions that support change efforts, and Jacqueline Cook (Vendasta Technologies) who discussed using data to create intrinsic motivation and a growth mindset for organizations.

Keith Willoughby, Edwards School of Business Dean, closed the conference with an interactive decision-making exercise. It demonstrated how seemingly simple situations could provide counter-intuitive results. It also depicted how people can ignore new information when assessing and evaluating alternatives.

At the end of the daylong conference, attendees left armed with knowledge, tools, and best practices to implement improved organizational decision-making.

Special thank you to event sponsors including EY, Fastprint Saskatoon, Graham Construction, the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, Moxie’s Grill & Bar, and the Grandey Leadership Initiative.

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