Sramana Mitra: What is the source of the problems? Is it the customers who bring the problems to you, or do you bring the problems to the customers?
JR Reagan: We normally have “Art of the Possible” sessions – they are about two hours long. Sometimes [people] are very eager and want to launch off into something, and sometimes they don’t really know. They have questions like, “I wonder how I would optimize my supply chain?” Those are very general things, so we start walking them through a series of prototypes and visualizations. Normally what we see is that at a 15-minute mark, they start either getting up and touching the screen themselves or almost grabbing at the air and describing the solution right in front of you. It is phenomenal to watch. That is where they start bringing the problem to us. We had some clients to leave several pages of ideas they wanted to tackle. But we also have scenarios we call BYOD (bring your own device) versus bring your own data.
SM: So, they give you data sets and see what kind of insights you can gather out of them.
JR: Exactly. I was always wondering why they would do that. It turns out they don’t have designers, usually. The creative side is missing in a lot of organizations.
SM: When you have identified a problem with a customer, you have an understanding of how you want to solve that problem, what kinds of data sets they are bringing in and what of visualizations you are going to do, do you go to other possible takers for that particular solution?
JR: Yes. I can’t tell you how many prototypes we make, show them to somebody and they would say, “Wow. We could use that.” And they would tell me how they could use that in some other industry I had never thought of. They just find themselves in these visualizations. I shouldn’t be amazed anymore, but I am on how that works and how quickly people just need to see something and react to it, because they can’t come up with it on their own.
SM: Do you ever experience people in your organizations wanting to go off and create their own companies? When you see problems up close, sometimes you see the potential of taking that problem and building a business out of it. Do you see people wanting to do that?
JR: Yes. I mentioned the emergency crisis scenario on hurricane Irene. That spawned into one where we had many organizations say,“We would love for you to offer that to me as a service.” Those kinds of things started leading us to think whether or not we should start building more types of businesses around that. Those are the kinds of things we are exploring.
SM: That is very interesting. Where is your lab?
JR: The lab is in Rosslyn, Virginia.
SM: And how many people do you have?
JR: We have 20 to 30 people. It grows and slows on any given day.
SM: And it is all in one place?
JR: We have other labs around the globe in our member firms, and we just finished adding a group of them from all over the world and we train them. This will become much more of a global scenario for us.
SM: Thank you for sharing your story with us.
JR: I enjoyed it.