It is no surprise that we’re increasing inundated with data. The amount of information collected and recorded is unprecendented. The question is: what will we do with it, and what value does it have. In for-profit business, the data about online purchases, demographics, or reasons for calls to a customer service line help a company be more effective, efficient, and ultimately profitable.
As I’ve worked with many Jewish organizations, I’ve learned that few are tracking data in useful ways, and even fewer are using this data to improve their programs, communication or allocation of resources. Data collection and analysis goes far beyond what funders may ask for in grant reporting, and productive data usage requires first and foremost that you’re asking the right questions.
In this TED video, David McCandless shows the power of data visualization. While the raw data may be overwhelming and not particularly useful, visualizing data may bring important patterns and relationships to light, and laying data sets on top of one another (frequency and geography, for example) can uncover important stories that otherwise would have been invisible. This “knowledge compression”, as he calls it, makes data useful. For those of us not yet collecting much data at all, these new ways of looking at the data may inspire us to start!
David says the word in the street is that “data is the new oil,” meaning it’s ubiquitous resource that can be used for different purposes. He adapts this to “data is the new soil”. And data visualization is flowers blooming from this fertile foundation. Check out the video from TED for more, including a few laughs: