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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Wilkinson

From T.S. Eliot, to data, to the corner office

T.S. Eliot famously wrote:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

(Deep, I know!)

These lines from the play The Rock are widely purported to be the origin behind the hierarchical pyramid known as DIKW – data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.

I was reminded of this ubiquitous triangle earlier in the week by Peter Jackson who used it as a simple guide to better understand the different types of chief data officer ‘CDO’ (as reproduced in my graphic). And went on to challenge viewers to think about where their strengths lie.

He then spoke about the potential evolution of the CDO to CEO.

This idea is premised on the notion that because the CDO has a sweeping view across an entire organisation, she is best placed to articulate the vision for all business units by drawing on insights and knowledge from data. So, it’s the CDO’s office that shareholders and executives should be looking to when succession comes around.

Looking back at the pyramid, I tend to agree.

Data-driven storytelling is a superpower. Few can truly translate technical insights into business strategy. And fewer still into a compelling narrative that employees, shareholders, and wider stakeholders buy into. Think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sundar Pichai, to name a few. Arguably, they’d all have been called a CDO – had the title existed then – on their ascent to CEO.

Thanks, Peter, for the inspiration, which came from week 1 of the Carruthers and Jackson CDO Summer School. You can watch his brief explanation here:


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