What You Learn about Data in a 16th Century Italian Villa

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This week I'm writing from the University of Bologna, where I was invited to teach two courses to students in their MBA program -- first to the Food and Wine students about narrative and innovation, and second to all MBA students about big data.

(That's an image, above, of our classroom, complete with all of today's technology, in a school established in 1088, in a villa overlooking Bologna that was built in 1575, complete with frescoes on the walls and ceiling. There was also a fireplace that I could literally stand in, with a fresco depicting the burning of books during the Inquisition. Just, you know, because.)

The courses are about narrative, innovation and data, which are the three cornerstones that form the foundational tripod of my work life. It is built on these.

The students may have come into the room expecting to learn something from me, their teacher this week, but I came into the room expecting to learn something from them.

Tell me, I said, after I spoke to them about narrative and innovation and big data for wine. Tell me how to take what you know –- about data and your work lives in these different industries –- and make our work with Enolytics even better.

Which they did, one by one.

  • The people from the Innovation Management program spoke about data as it relates to distribution and the supply chain.
  • The people from Corporate Finance spoke about valuations and access to capital.
  • The people in the Design, Fashion and Luxury Goods track spoke about CRM and how to use it to create memorable experiences that translate to your most loyal, best-spending customers.
  • The people in Green Energy went right for the operational side of things, namely the growers and viticulturalists, and spoke about internal data to advance environmental efficiency.
  • And the people in the Food and Wine track spoke about the ways that data could be anonymized, shared and studied for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

Those students may have been in the class expecting to learn something from me, and maybe they did. But I doubt it was anything close to the amount that I learned from them.

It’s the very best of cross-pollination and, even moreso, from the point of view of the next generation of business leaders in wine and food and other industries too.

I’ll come away from Bologna this week with my marching orders for upcoming iterations of Enolytics. I’ll be incredibly excited to share the results with you here, of what we learn and how we evolve as a result. Please keep an eye on this space.

And let me know what's on your mind when it comes to data and your wine business.

Thank you, as always, for reading --