Data Analysis is for everyone
Are you a illustrator, writer, marketeer or other creative professional? There’s much to gain from knowing how to read and interpret data. It will humble you to the reality that you can be wrong, even when you did all the right things. That will result in a more open mindset. You will be able to accept different truths and have better results. Leveling up your data-analysis skills will allow you to let go of frustrations and insecurities. You will no longer be capsized by opinions and prejudices of others. You’ll be more confident and even losing will feel a lot less painful. As a cherry on top, it will give you the power to persuade your team or client with more than just your charming smile or gut feeling.
So get ready to sharpen your blade. And prepare for a successful parry with stakeholders and narrowminded naysayers. When the data is on your side, you will be undefeatable.
Data analysis to find the truth
How do you measure the effectiveness of your art? How do you recognize a piece of writing that people will love? When creating product to sell, just making good art or writing pretty texts isn’t good enough. Most of the time, when you work in a business environment, your goal is not to be creative, but to be effective. Valuing your work based on creativity is therefore counterproductive.
‘I don’t want you to tell me you find it creative, I want you to find it so interesting that you’ll buy the product.’ – Ogilvy
Seasoned marketeers know how to put a creative debate to bed. Because while there isn’t an universal truth about something so subjective as art, testing its effectiveness has become increasingly easier with new technologies. This is where data analysis will be your best friend. When in doubt, launch a test campaign. You’ll likely save money, time and you’ll decrease energy spend on longwinded, headache inducing meetings.
‘Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign. And that’s the way to answer them – not by arguments around the table.’ – Ogilvy
Beware of the pitfalls of data though! Data is only as valuable as your ability to analyse it. Like with any great tool, it’s important to know what it can do and how it works. Especially if you plan on building your blueprint around the results the tool will bring.
The fact is that many things can be true at the same time. It is your job to determine which truth is important to you. This starts by understanding that the truth will be different dependent on who you ask. When you ask a landscaper about a design for a park, their answer will be specific to their frame of reference. They might tell you that the paths are not perfectly aligned, but that the design lends a nice balance between nature and infrastructure. They might be able to explain why a design like this is economical, sustainable or pleasant. But the truth changes when you ask people hurrying through the park trying to get to the supermarket. Suddenly the design seems silly, why isn’t there just a direct path to the nearest exit?
What do you think happens when you had only asked road workers? What happens when you exclude landscapers? What happens when you ask the people who go to the right at this intersection, and not the left? How will wheelchair users respond to your question? Who’s voice are you catering to? Do they have a reason to not tell you the truth? Do you have enough data to determine a reasonable confidence in a conclusion?
Answer all these questions confidently, and you’ll soon equip the powerful tool that is data-supported proof. Doesn’t that feel nice?
Data analysis to create excitement
When you think about data, excitement might not be the first word that pops up to describe how you feel about it. Which is no surprise, seeing how most people have no clue how to present it. Let alone know how to make it understandable by anyone other than themselves. But I’m here to tell you that data can in fact excite people, and you can learn how to make that happen.
First, you want to think about what really matters. Often, it’s not the actual numbers that will excite people. It’s the story that they can tell. Imagine you got amazing click through rate on an ad that you’ve been working on hard for a week. Click through rate often tells something about interest. The story that the numbers tell is that people are interested in what you offered them. That’s an amazing story to be able to share! When you explain it like that, the numbers on the screen become stories that can be changed. And you and your team become the writers.
When the results are disappointing, the numbers are trying to tell you that something went wrong. This isn’t always a sad tale though, as it can be very valuable to know what doesn’t work! It’s a simple fact that we get more creative when our options are limited. This means that getting rid of options that don’t work can actually spark a new wave of creativity!
Data presentations can help make the long road to the finish line of a big project a little more enjoyable. It can help people feel more excited about the journey ahead and every single stop along the way. When you miss a turn and need to recalculate your route, everyone understands why you’re going off the main road. And because everyone feels more in control, the sudden change will cause less resistance. People might even get excited about taking the scenic route and get excited for the sights ahead.
Data presentation to improve the feeling of ownership
Data presented correctly can unite a team like a sports teams unites their fans. Good numbers mean a win for everyone! Celebrate together when the numbers are great. Give the people or team responsible credit for getting to those numbers. Make them feel proud. And when the numbers are bad, people should put their heads together to come up with a new game plan.
You have the power to make the numbers actually mean something. Data is not just for the boardroom, it is also for the people who did the hard work to influence them. When people understand how their work shapes the data they will become better at their job.
This also works for the lone wolves out there. You can feel empowered by data to improve your work. Just look at the pull that Instagram likes and number of views on YouTube videos have on creators. As soon as you give them a dashboard, they want to improve whatever is on the screen. They start feeling responsible for the numbers, and will be more critical of their work. They might start experimenting with different thumbnails and titles to improve their odds.
This is where the fun begins.