If you’re one of those people who starts to hear their heart beat in their ears when someone asks a question about “data” or “analytics,” this is a love letter from me to you. If you’ve ever said the words, “I’m not really a data person,” consider this message my encouraging, non-creepy shoulder rub and pat on the back; I believe in you. You are, have always been, and always will be a data person.
How do I know this? I know this because everyone is a “data person,” but not everyone has a mind that frames information in mathematical terms. To illustrate: when you run out to your car in a frenzy because you’re late for an important meeting, you get in and you think about whether or not you should attempt to avoid that light at main street and first avenue because it’s around lunchtime and everyone takes that direction this time of day. You may not realize it, but this thought process is combing through your very own, extremely complex, human brain database. When you are picking out your clothes for that interview for the job you really want, and you stare at two pairs of shoes, agonizing about which one will most accurately reflect your own identity but also send the message that you’re a good fit for their community, you’re thinking about odds, associations, likelihoods. Your impulsive dog thinks in data terms, too, particularly likelihoods. If your bank statements boast hefty spend on dog treats, when you command him to “SIT!” he will do so because he knows that there’s a high likelihood that a swift sit will earn him a delicious treat. On the other hand, if you have never introduced a positive reinforcement routine to encourage the “SIT” command, you can yell “SIT!” on a loop, with the command of a movie trailer narrator, but he won’t associate any actions on his part with a positive outcome.
This focus on statistical thinking and storage of data has been key to the development of our species; we all have innate data smarts and I challenge all of you to pay close attention to how often you make decisions based on likelihoods, probabilities, odds and associations.
I predict (another statistical construct: prediction and forecasting!) that the more instances you can identify where you think in data terms in your regular life, the world of data will become more real and relatable and you will feel your innate data lens start to find its focus.
My challenge for you is to think of all of your patterns and routines and answer these questions (bonus points for writing them down):
- What is the pattern?
- How long ago did you adopt this pattern?
- What were your reasons for adopting this pattern?
- When was the last time you tried to deviate from this pattern, if ever? What was the result?
In our next blog, we’ll examine our patterns carefully in relation to the scientific method, channel our inner Aristotle and Isaac Newton, and we’ll start to turn our trusty (and sometimes rusty) brain databases into logic motors that use creativity for fuel instead of outdated information.