Business & Leadership Behaviors Project Management Thoughts

Piñatas, Marco Polo & Capture the Flag – Games or Models for Finding Data?

Everywhere I look, there seem to be different ways to entertain kids this summer. While there are some really creative ideas out there (thank you, Pinterest), I think some of the classics are the best.

As adults, we don’t participate in games nearly as much as when we were younger. But as I look at some of the games we played, I see some similarities in what made those games fun – and how some of our clients seem to approach data. Weird, right? Definitely scary.

Don’t get me wrong – I think all of us have taken these approaches at least once (likely more). But as an organization that is all about data accuracy, we may be a little more focused on these things.

Here are some of the more common scenarios that I’ve seen:


As a kid, I loved this concept. Somewhere nearby, there was a large, colorful object that held TONS of candy. All I had to do was break it open, and the treasure was mine!

Obviously, the reality wasn’t as easy as it seemed. I was blindfolded, armed only with a stick (that didn’t seem to effectively break the object), and the feedback of laughter from my family and friends. I usually connected a few times, but it took either another party guest or the assistance of my dad to break that bugger open and liberate the loot.

I sometimes see clients using a similar approach when they are looking for data. They know that they have the data somewhere in their systems or organization. Unfortunately, there is little logic or guidance to where it’s located. So they grope around any data sources that they get their hands on, hoping that they find the data that they’re looking to use. Never mind the accuracy of the data found – just getting to it is challenging enough.

Marco Polo

I grew up on a lake in Minnesota. Naturally, water games were our favorites – and Marco Polo often topped the list. Here you have a few more clues to where to find your target – like audible responses, the inevitable noises your target makes while moving around (we weren’t the stealthiest kids) – and, of course, the laughter of the other kids. It might take a little while, but eventually, you’d find your target.

Some clients have this method to find their data. It’s a little more advanced than the Piñata approach, but not by much.

They have a general idea of where to find things, get some vague feedback, and keep looking until they get what they need. It’s not the most efficient approach – and data may not necessarily be current when they find it. But usually, the process exhausts their patience enough that the “I’ll deal with this later” thought is the response to the situation.

Capture the Flag

This was my favorite game as a kid. It involved strategy. It involved teamwork. And I could usually kick my brother’s rear at this one.

When I see this with clients, they seem to be the ones that have their collective acts a little more together when it comes to data. They have a specific target, work together to divide up the approach, and are strategic in how they go after it.

Their results are stronger. They sometimes hesitate to stray from their methods because it has gotten the job done in the past. But even if everything that they do is manually conducted, they tend to be ahead of the others when it comes to data quality and accuracy.

The Reality Party Crasher

The reality is that data visibility is not a game. And approaching your data the same way you approached the games of your childhood is not going to help you advance your team’s goals (at least not efficiently).

Whether you’re groping around in the dark or using manual methods (albeit strategic), you may be missing the benefits of having visibility of what the true facts are – right now – with your organization.

Obviously, I have some biases here, having spent my career in data capture and analysis. But what the experiences over the years have given me is an understanding that, no matter what your industry or mission is, having visibility to data that you trust can be the make or break factor for your team.

The Mobile Game

I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have some type of mobile electronics with them nearly every hour of the day. That device may be a phone, a tablet, or even some type of smartwatch. It’s to the point where it’s hard to imagine functioning without them (and ironically, some of these same devices are distracting kids from the games I described earlier).

The use of mobile solutions and devices in our work – whatever that work may be – can quickly take you from a Piñata experience to well beyond Capture the Flag when it comes to having visibility to your data.

As I said, I may be coming from a weird perspective, given the nature of the work that we do. But if you could find the data that you need right when you need it and trust it implicitly – what would that mean for you? Or for your budgets? Or for other operations decisions and planning?

Think about it.

Data is critical. Having barriers to getting to it – never mind trusting it when found – just adds more risk. And one wrong data element in a report can change your organization’s entire trajectory.

Do you have some challenges in getting to your data or trusting it once found? Let’s talk.



Anne Hale is the Director of Client Services at HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile inventory management and warehouse solutions. She manages our client engagements, works with Wes Haubein on sales and marketing, and would be a great asset to your Capture the Flag team.