Andy Schaul

Head of Digital Platforms & Portfolio - R&D Science, Competitor & IP Intelligence

Bayer CropScience

Winner 2022

Andy Schaul

How did you get into social intelligence? What was your career path to your current position?

I got into social intelligence and insights at a really interesting time personally and professionally. When I was getting started I was finishing up a Master of Public Health program with a focus on biosecurity and disaster preparedness. In this field the role of communication and coordination is critical and the tools to do so were transforming ‚Äì including the utilization of social media. And at the same time, I was also entering the corporate world where companies were trying to figure out how to invest in social media to serve their business needs while balancing the risks that come with this new territory.    

So I came into this world from a less traditional point of view (not marketing, not communication, not public affairs) and early on in my career was able to think about and utilize social media as a tool for risk awareness and preparation for our global business - whether that was a public health challenge impacting our employees, an issue in the agriculture value chain affecting our business, or new opportunities to engage stakeholders in local communities where we operate. This was all before there were firms focused on these problems and using social data to help solve them.    

As my career progressed, I moved on to build and lead a larger team of analysts and subject matter experts that utilized social data alongside lots of other data and experience to help the company gain a more complete view of the risks and opportunities. Those risk and opportunities included business, reputation, policy, competitor, and scientific points of view.    

And more recently I moved into the R&D part of our business where I work more closely with scientific data like literature publications and patents. I'm excited to continue utilizing social data in this context to better our understanding of how science and scientific topics are influenced by social media.    

What's your proudest achievement of your career to date?

I can't point to one specific achievement that I am most proud of in my career thus far. What I will say is that I have been fortunate to work with many great people over the years who supported me and trusted me, particularly in this new and challenging social space. With that trust I have been able to increase investment in this area over the years, most importantly by building teams and hiring tremendously talented analysts, data scientists, and partners. I'm honored to have been able to work with and learn from my teams over these years.    

How is your organisation using social data to support business decision-making?

At Bayer we utilize social data in lots of ways - from traditional things like marketing, communications, and community engagement - to gauging societal interest and engagement into broader topics of interest to the company like transparency and science - with lots of others along way. Social data is a sought-out information source for many decisions. The important point that I would add here is that at Bayer we‚Äôve tried our best to ensure that these decisions are not just supported by social data itself, but rather come from our analysts who are both experts in this kind of data and also in our business. In this way we strive to offer insights and not data into decision making processes.    

Looking into 2022, what are your expectations for how social intelligence is going to support your organisation?

My expectations for social intelligence in our organization in 2022 are unchanged from recent years. I expect by empowering our analysts and experts with this data and related tools we will continue to offer insights and develop new and creative ways of infusing it into our decision-making processes.    And now that I've recently moved to this new role, I am looking forward to further investigating the relationships between science and social media.    

What's your view on how to develop social intelligence and get organisational buy-in?

On this point I am really a 'show me, don't tell me' kind of person. Over the past 10 years or so I've been able to grow this space from almost no resources at all to a team of analysts and data scientists equipped with lots of tools, data, and resources. I credit much of this success to finding ways, even small ones, to show decision makers and leadership how building these capabilities internally enables us to be more aware, responsive, and connected to a dynamic world.    

What piece of advice would you give to others working within organisations doing social intelligence?

I'll keep this one simple:    

Build your people up.    

Learn from them.    

Create space for new ideas and approaches.    

Where would you like to see the discipline of social intelligence going in the future?

First off, it's been incredible to see how this discipline has evolved over the past decade. I couldn't have imagined when I entered this space that we'd be where we are today. Looking ahead, I'd like to see increased discussion and focus on critical topics like transparency and data privacy. Additionally, I think there continues to be opportunities to professionalize the discipline in the future through training programs, certifications, and networking.    

What would you say to business leaders about why they should be incorporating social intelligence into their growth strategies?

Someone who is more focused on marketing, sales, or communication in this arena can certainly rattle off a plethora of statistics making the clear case for this investment. I'll just add that in general if you're not already incorporating social intelligence somehow, even in a small way, into your growth strategy you're probably worried it's too risky for some reason or perhaps that your customers aren't there. Yes, there are risks involved - but when you look at the opportunities to engage current or potential customers, to seek feedback on new ideas or products, to position yourself relative to your competitors, to tell your own story - it's clear that the opportunities are worth at least dipping your toes in the proverbial social intelligence water.

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