Posted by: kenwbudd | December 14, 2009

Picture This! Artwork, Graphics and Visualisation for better data management

“A good sketch is better than a long speech…” — a quote often attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte
The ability to visualise the implications of data, is as old as humanity itself.

Yet due to the vast warehouses (quantities, sources, and silos) of data being carried around our global economy at an ever increasing rate, the need for superior visualisation is growing dramatically.

Over time we will naturally migrate toward superior visualisations to cope with this oceanic tide of information or be lost in the tidal wave that engulfs us.

Our ability to deal with data, in a non-visual and graphical nature, is self limiting. Whereby the human becomes the squeeze point where data grinds to a complete halt, awaiting further decisive action.

Neanderthal Approach
Since the days of the cave paintings, graphic depiction has always been an integral part of how people think, communicate, and make sense of the world. This modern world is no different, new information systems are at the heart of all management processes and organisational activities.

The good news is that even in a world of information surplus and overspill, we can draw upon deep human habits on how to visualise information to make sense of a dynamic reality and enable understanding and comprehension.

Moore’s Law
The quality, timeliness, granularity, and volume of data has increased greatly. Also, with the ever improving assistance of Moore’s Law, we have the power to recombine and analyse the vast stream of information at a price point that makes even very advanced visualisation techniques within the reach of any business.

The Power of Three
Working with my clients, I’ve seen three primary benefits of superior graphic representation:

1. Greater visualisation is more efficient — they let people look at and absorb vast quantities of data quickly.
2. Graphics or visual representations can help an analyst, or a group, achieve more insight into the nature of a problem and discover new understanding.
3. Better visualisation can help create a shared view of a situation and it will establish a shared alignment on needed actions.

Data Combination
In addition to arranging the information to create shared understanding, visualisation gives us the ability to combine data to create a new insight, quickly and clearly

Mapping Tools
The quality of cheap mapping tools and the availability of vast quantities of free or inexpensive data is growing. The planet is becoming “smart” in the sense that we can track, monitor and see much more of both the built and the natural environment.

The Challenge
The challenge is that if management teams do not consciously build in great visualisations, their organisations will waste an inordinate amount of time, sifting through the quagmire of bits, and may not even get to the effective insights they need.

Perhaps most perniciously, people will be too focused on their own part of the puzzle, never getting to the shared and collaborated understanding that allows teams to take the right action in a tight time-frame.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is there a simple map or maps of information that could make my life easier?
2. Do we have the ability to take this data mountain and synthesise it into these new forms?
3. How much time does the organisation waste arguing about the facts instead of deepening understanding or crafting solutions?


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