TIBCO’s Vivek Ranadivé on the “Death of Science,” the Rise of Pattern Recognition, and the Power of Data in Basketball

8/10/11Follow @wroush

Vivek Ranadivé is one of those CEOs who was born with a silver quote in his mouth. He’s great on television, he gives entertaining speeches, and interviewing him is like bathing in a river of aphorisms and metaphors. I enjoy visiting Ranadivé at his company’s Palo Alto, CA, headquarters not just in order to catch up on the news about his software firm TIBCO, but to hear which directions his thoughts have been taking him. Lately those thoughts have had a lot to do with books and basketball.

On September 5, Crown Business will release The Two-Second Advantage, co-written by Ranadivé and Kevin Maney, which, as its subtitle explains, is about “how we succeed by anticipating the future—just enough.” In the book, as in most of his public remarks, you can see Ranadivé taking the fundamental idea that unifies TIBCO’s software products—-the value of sharing information within and between computer systems in real time, the better to identify and act upon significant events and trends—and stretching it to see how it applies to a growing range of real-world problems, from telecommunications to macroeconomics to managing a professional sports team.

Which leads to Ranadivé’s other current obsession. Last year the software magnate became co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, the San Francisco Bay Area’s NBA basketball team, joining a new ownership group that includes movie producer Peter Guber, Kleiner Perkins partner Joe Lacob, and real estate investor Erika Glazer. Ranadivé was already known for his interest in basketball—see Malcolm Gladwell’s 2009 New Yorker article on underdogs, which largely focuses on Ranadivé’s strategies for coaching his daughter’s National Junior Basketball team—and it’s no surprise at all that his theories about the best way to run a professional team reflect his theories about the best way to run a business, i.e., gaining an advantage through data analysis.

Those subjects and others ran through my last conversation with Ranadivé in July. Here’s an edited summary.

Xconomy: So, what have you been thinking about lately?

Vivek Ranadivé: I’m really excited, because I have a mission, which is to say that if you get the right information to the right place at the right time and put it in the right context, you can make the world a better place. Every day I see more and more evidence of that. So the theme continues.

One of the things I like to say is that science is dead. You can spend a lot of time trying to understand why something happened, or you can just know that if A, B, and C happened, then D will happen. Examples of this are frequent. That plane that crashed of the coast of Brazil—if they had connected the dots, they would have known that the flight was going to end in disaster and made a turn and avoided the crash. In cybersecurity, you can try to build a better lock, but somebody will also find a way to pick it, or you can do what the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security have done, which is to … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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