Transforming Data Into Insight

June 12, 2013

Making sense of data can be overwhelming - and the challenges only become increasingly compounded in this age of “Big Data” as more sources, bigger data sets, and less-structured content continues to be made available. But developing meaningful findings out of data is a highly thoughtful human exercise that no algorithm can ever replace.

We refer to this process as “strategy-driven insight” – an approach to collecting and analyzing data designed to achieve the stated objectives of an organization.

Here are five tips to help you focus on what is most important when it comes to packaging information in a way that is truly actionable:

1. Wear three hats at once.

Developing a meaningful narrative from data is not only about doing good research – it must also be purposeful to a company and capable of influencing the behaviors of the people that shape those organizations. This process requires that you consider the following three perspectives: -Scientific: be methodical, rigorous and logical -Business: focus attention on growth, profitability and efficiency -Human experience: integrate the personal, the emotional and the entertaining.

2. Know where you’re going, but be open to surprises.

Before you begin generating insights, create a clear direction for the path you intend to follow based on the goals of the organization. But be prepared for the unexpected. If something doesn’t fit, take a step back, reevaluate and adjust your commentary accordingly.

3. Utilize whole-brain thinking.

Convergent thinking is the process of developing clear, concise answers to a problem – this is often associated with linear and analytic “left brain” thinking. Divergent thinking is a method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions – this is often associated with intuitive and creative “right brain” thinking. Strategy-driven insights require both, so be comfortable drawing from the two hemispheres of your gray matter by embracing the chaos and contradictions experienced between exploring options and narrowing choices.

4. Follow the large and the small.

In the world of statistics, normal curves, major trends and general patterns are effective ways to map out data. But in the world of insights, it is equally important to pay close attention to the details and the outliers. Utilize both quantitative and qualitative findings – and have each inform and challenge the other.

5. Use the tenets of branding as your guide.

As the process of analyzing and translating data takes you into new territory and shines light on things you may have never seen or considered, it can quickly become confusing. To easily prioritize and organize the final story, come back to the basic questions we use when evaluating brands: is it clear, relevant, believable, and differentiating?

If you are mindful of these methods, you will be successful in transforming reams of 1s and 0s into plans that move people and businesses.

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