Wednesday, 29 April 2020

The most important form of work

If you haven't been following the new series of Qlik Virtual Meetups, they are worth tuning into and there is probably one in your region. Being virtual, it doesn't matter if they are in your region or not!

The recent edition of the Qlik Virtual Meetup Scotland featured an old friend in Treehive Strategy's Donald Farmer (it also featured the ever excellent Michael Tarallo talking about Qlik Sense April 2020!). In an excellent presentation, Donald mentioned two particular quotes that resonated with me and some of my own ideas around data visualisation and data literacy.

The first was from (the excellent!) Michael Lewis's book, Losers: The Road to Everyplace but the Whitehouse. The quote was:

"an explanation is where the mind comes to rest"

Donald uses the quote in the context of an analyst looking at data to what they feel is a conclusion. He feels, and I agree, that it is not enough to say that you have just followed the data. You stop being critical. Donald also paraphrases Deming: "with data, your just another person with data, and an opinion". This is because we are all fundamentally human beings with many, many biases. Where our mind comes to rest we feel comfortable.

For me, an interesting example of this occurred just yesterday with a chart published in this article: Three charts that show where the coronavirus death rate is heading. The chart, which at initial look looks like a spiral mess, with time, becomes clear and quite interesting. It is a great example of a chart that you need to spend some time with to appreciate, but the effort is rewarded.

I shared my opinion on Twitter, and some of the other discussion is interesting. However most of the discussion stopped at, "ugh!" - people were not prepared to give the chart the benefit of the doubt and invest any time. "Ugh!", was their explanation. That is where their minds rested.

The second quote was from a Harvard Business Review article titled What's So New About the New Economy written by Alan M. Webber:

"In the new economy, conversations are the most important form of work."

Donald expressed that Data literacy is about communicating with data. It is not just about a few people understanding data, it is about raising the level in society.

Conversations are enormously important in raising all the boats. Some data visualizations are merely about getting to rest - getting users to a position where they have the explanation that they want. Others are designed to try to get users beyond that point. But it is hard to get a body-at-rest moving. Conversations can help us get over that inertia. Conversations about data. Conversations over data.

Will you join the conversation?


As well as holding a Master's Degree in Data Analytics, Stephen Redmond is a practicing Data Professional of over 20 years experience. He is author of Mastering QlikView, QlikView Server and Publisher and the QlikView for Developer's Cookbook

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