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Translating data to create a meaningful story

Sam LittleAda Lovelace saw the true value of data, becoming obsessed with the Difference Engine, the first automatic computing engine designed by pioneer Charles Babbage in 1833. Ada was desperate to work with Charles but as a woman and little-known mathematician it was difficult for her to gain recognition. When Ada saw a French article about Charles’s newest idea, she saw her chance. Ada translated the paper into English, adding her own thoughts and ideas. Using her knowledge and insights to tell a story around the data brought her to the attention of Charles and initiated a long and successful collaboration.

There is little doubt that embracing data and analytics is best practice in the 21st century. However, we must remember why we engage in this process in the first place - it is to understand, to ask the right questions and then be able to communicate what this means in the relevant context.

Analysis provides a basis on which to drive change, inspire action or enable us to look at things differently. Here, communication and meaningful interpretation are as important in driving outcomes as the quality of data and insights.

The art is often not in the collation of the data but in its analysis and our ability to craft a meaningful and actionable story. So why can this prove difficult when work is focused around data and analytics?

  • When taking a brief requiring an element of analysis, we often focus heavily on the data requirements and technicalities rather than the purpose
  • Those who work purely in the field of analytics sometimes don’t naturally gravitate towards storytelling, rather favouring a focus on data alone, but the process of filtering relevant data and communicating it is equally important
  • Robust analysis and the crafting of a compelling story takes time and a different set of skills
  • We can easily get drawn into the rabbit hole of more analysis, moving us away from a clear and compelling set of actions.

There are several reasons why storytelling with data is critical to success. As Ada demonstrated, embracing data can open us  up to numerous possibilities.  However, to be heard we must  craft a story which others can understand and engage with, then we can drive significant change.

Sam Little is senior director at JPA

in association with

JPA

29th May 2018

From: Marketing

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