Posts Tagged data visualization

HBR: The Risks of Quantification

The Risk of Quantification

Admitting uncertainty means facing reality — and our own needs for security. But admitting uncertainty is not enough. We must learn to actively embrace uncertainty and work with ambiguity.

As I sit in a two day meeting about drawing insights from data quantification, this article is very timely.  Obviously there’s merit in looking at your data and trying to draw as many insights as possible, but we as marketers can sometimes end up hiding behind the data, using them as an excuse to take no action in favor of gathering and analyzing more data.

There comes a time, however, where you have to accept whatever level of ambiguity you’re willing to accept, make a decision, and take action.  The question then becomes: When is the right time?  A better question might be: What do I get by delaying and gathering more data?  Am I falling prey to the law of diminishing returns?

As the ever-prescient Merlin Mann likes to say, “How do you know when you have enough [information] to get started?  What can you not do with the [information] you have right now?” 1

How do you overcome “Analysis Paralysis”?

  1. You can read more here or watch here.

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Let the dataset change your mindset

As someone who spends a decent amount of time creating and updating Powerpoint slides, I sometimes struggle to find the most effective way to present data. In one circumstance, a simple table of numbers might be sufficient to get the point across in the proper amount of detail. In another, a 2×2 matrix might do a better job conveying the interplay between 3 or 4 different variables.

There’s a great TED Talk given by David McCandless about visualization of very large datasets. Its an interesting look at how to “[squeeze] an enormous amount of information and understanding into a small space.”

As we continue to compile and sift larger and larger datasets, its up to us as marketers not only to distill the key messages from those data, but also present those key messages in an effective and compelling way.

McCandless goes through a few short examples in the talk and details even more in his books. I highly encourage you to check them out.

[NB: YouTube version embedded.  You can also check out the original on]

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