Data storytelling is complex.  The data has been collected, wrangled, analysed and visualised.  Data scientists have worked hard and produced a visualisation that shouts powerful insights. But business leaders don’t see the same picture and the effort is wasted.  They want to ask subsidiary questions, explore alternatives and stress test the conclusions that have been reached.  They can’t because the project has cast them in role of observer rather than explorer.

Data scientists too are often frustrated because they often fail to engage business leaders in the opportunities afforded by their tools.  The business leaders are incapable of seeing the opportunities and don’t ask enough questions.  If they did, they would get better work from their data team but without seeing the possibilities (which when presented look too complex) this failure to create a shared view will continue.

Some organisations have tried to turn business leaders into makers by encouraging them to use tools such as Power BI and Tableau themselves but although these are both more general and accessible they don’t quite bridge the gap between the decision makers and the data team.  It is also easy in workshops to skate over real issues of data collection, cleaning and models of analysis that are needed to create the powerful insights that will support real decision taking, experimentation and learning.

We need to define a bridge; a middle ground between the completed visualisation and giving leaders power tools they cannot use. We need to turn them into players, explorers and detectives.  And this requires tools that balance the power of visualisation (and real data) with the freedom to explore and ask what-if within an interesting (but bounded) exploration space.  

I’ve used the term players because that is how we will engage them in exploring.  Workshops need to be fun, engaging and push curiosity and discussion.  Each session needs to include an interesting initial challenge that is open ended but with a number of likely outcomes.  Ideally the same tool should support multiple challenges.  

This is the agenda that is now shaping many of the projects we are working on. What do you think?

Categories: insights


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