Technology & Data – what is it good for?

Mark Upton
Sep 11, 2015

To avoid the answer given in Edwin Starr’s “war”, what needs to be considered?

Some brief thoughts on the use of technology and data to help people be their best in sport (also relevant to management and organisations in general)

  • Any technology that enables people to connect and share on their terms, when they otherwise wouldn’t have, has great potential to facilitate learning. This is exciting!
  • Let the player/coach/employee/team decide what data & analysis is relevant to help them develop and get better (creating a poweful synergy between autonomy & mastery).
  • traditional performance management systems, as typically used by HR departments and now creeping into sport (eg via EPPP in English Football), promise much but often deliver little value (and at worst become a distraction). This might be in part because of the next point…
  • If using data to constantly and exclusively judge/assess/(de)select/reward/punish/compare people — be careful! A toxic culture, characterised by survival rather than growth mindsets and behaviour, could soon emerge.
  • Related to the above in a team sport, this is even more problematic when the data is based on actions/events in isolation, ignoring the fact relationships and interactions (dynamics) are what need to be understood – on and off the field. Performance Analysis will continue to under-deliver until it is based on a sound theoretical framework of performance/skill acquisition/learning, and understanding of the “psychology of data”. This is the responsibility of both coaches and performance analysts.

When all is said an done, the potential for technology and data to make a positive contribution to helping people be their best is unquestionable. However we must be wary of the fine line that is currently being trod, as a few recent examples have highlighted the threat of doing more harm than good.

To end on a philosophical note… if we keep in mind that trying to control others through use of technology and data should be avoided, then we can progress with great hope and optimism.