Data Is Not The Answer

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Love might be the answer. But data is not. Data is more a suggestion than a solution. We get data-driven suggestions all of the time: movie suggestions from Netflix, book suggestions from Amazon, mate suggestions form

Netflix data can take us only so far. Once we get their suggestions, we then apply knowledge that even Netflix doesn’t have: what mood we are in right now, whom we plan to watch the movie with, etc.  Netflix’s suggestions + our knowledge/wisdom can lead to a good decision.

The data we house in our organizations also can make suggestions worthy of our consideration. But we must apply knowledge and wisdom before moving forward. A key source of this information are staff members, at different levels of an organization, who can apply their experience and professional knowledge. Executives are more likely to apply broad knowledge from the field while those on the ground are more likely to apply first-hand knowledge gleaned from experiences with certain programs, clients, etc. Accessing this knowledge is as simple as showing a line chart to staff and asking: why do you think this happening?

Another source of invaluable wisdom is our clientele (service users, participants, visitors, patients, etc.) Unfortunately, many organizations do not tap this resource well or at all. Clientele knowledge will be the topic of a future data tip.

See other data tips in this series for more information on how to effectively visualize and make good use of your organization's data.