Displaying data can be a tricky proposition, because different rules apply in different contexts. A sales director presenting financial projections to a group of field reps wouldn’t visualize her data the same way that a design consultant would in a written proposal to a potential client.
So how do you make the right choices for your situation? Before displaying your data, ask yourself these five questions:
1. Am I presenting or circulating my data?
2. Am I using the right kind of chart or table?
3. What message am I trying to convey?
4. Do my visuals accurately reflect the numbers?
5. Are my data memorable?
Kenneth Mikkelsen's insight:
Excellent blog post by Nancy Duarte on Harvard Business Review.
Nancy Duarte is the author of two award-winning books on the art of presenting, Slide:ology and Resonate.
Read my previous Scoop about Resonate here - and follow the link to read the book online. But I encourage you to buy the hardcopy - it's a treat.
In 1635, England’s Charles I expanded the island’s mail delivery service to the public — with postage paid by the recipient and based on the weight of the letter. If Great Aunt Henrietta wrote you a 10-page letter asking why you weren’t married yet, throughout most of the country you paid for the privilege of receiving it. It wasn’t until 1840 that the Royal Mail switched to a system in which postage was prepaid by the sender.
I think of this fact often when checking my email. I hope it doesn’t take 200 years to figure out how to make the initiators of these messages — rather than their beleaguered recipients — bear the burden of their sending. But until then, recipients have to manage. And often, we have to manage without the kind of administrative support 20th century executives relied on.
Kenneth Mikkelsen's insight:
Sarah Green, a senior associate editor at Harvard Business Review shares her results from a two-year experiment in self-management.
Failure is how we learn. The problem is, argues Megan McArdle, we’re forgetting that truth. We are becoming too risk-averse and that is bad for our children, for our personal lives, for our companies, and for our country.
While we tend to treat success as finite and failure as disaster, the reality is that in order to be successful, we must learn how to harness the power of failure. In The Up Side Down, McArdle explains why.
Procrastination and impulsivity are genetically linked, suggesting that the two traits stem from similar evolutionary origins, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research indicates that the traits are related to our ability to successfully pursue and juggle goals.
Most of us have at one time or another felt ourselves in the grip of the explanatory drive. You’re confronted by some puzzle, confusion or mystery. Your inability to come up with an answer gnaws at you. You’re up at night, turning the problem over in your mind. Then, suddenly: clarity. The pieces click into place. There’s a jolt of pure satisfaction.
We’re all familiar with this drive, but I wasn’t really conscious of the moral force of this longing until I read Michael Lewis’s book, “Flash Boys.”
As you’re probably aware, this book is about how a small number of Wall Street-types figured out that the stock markets were rigged by high-frequency traders who used complex technologies to give themselves a head start on everybody else. It’s nominally a book about finance, but it’s really a morality tale. The core question Lewis forces us to ask is: Why did some people do the right thing while most of their peers did not?
The answer, is that most people on Wall Street are primarily motivated to make money, but a few people are primarily motivated by an intense desire to figure stuff out.
Kenneth Mikkelsen's insight:
Very interesting op-ed column in New York Times by David Brooks linking curiosity and the behavior on Wall St.
The column relates to Michael Lewis' recent book, Flash Boy.
From carpenters to sculptors, makers end each workday with a physical object looking different than it did that morning. But what if you’re a knowledge worker? How do we know our level of progress when the fruits of our labors can be easily and quickly buried by our next task?
Observing individuals who lead a creative life, we can identify elements of expertise, grit, an understanding, and passion. What’s easy to overlook is the inner system within an individual—the set of principles that govern their mind and behavior. When failure ensues or the need to adapt is necessary, how does one respond? What do they tell themselves? In other words, what’s their philosophy?
Originality is fundamental to innovation and the key to building sustainable businesses and brands. However, in order to innovate, we must move from the known to the unknown - we must dream.
Sadly, the metaskill of dreaming is not taught in business schools - or any other school for that matter. There is no “Dreaming 101” class. This is disheartening, especially in an age when innovation is often the dividing line between success and failure.
The good news is, dreaming can be harnessed for a specific purpose using applied imagination. Once we learn the skill of dreaming--of disassociating our thoughts from the linear and the logical--we can become wellsprings of originality.
While some people may be naturals in the realm of imagination, we can all improve our skills with deliberate practice.
A kid laughs on average 300 times a day. An adult laughs on average….five times a day. What the…!?
How did we go from 300 to 5? What the hell happened to us? That’s why we start to panic during the day!
Did we cross some bridge of crap and tears and now here we are: drones that wake up, go to work, backstab each other in office politics, watch Breaking Bad, and then go to sleep and Die? Every single day?
Did someone slip a pill into the Starbucks coffee we drink every day? A no-laughing pill?
Laughter is really hard as an adult. It has to be. Else, how did we go from 300 to 5! That’s a HUGE gap. There is no arguing that something really bad and scary and sad happened to us between childhood and adulthood.
Figurative images, such as an illuminated or a blown bulb, can improve our insights--but they can also dim them.
Kenneth Mikkelsen's insight:
New research, published this month in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, suggests that visual metaphors don't have to be so intrusive to be effective. In one experiment, test participants completed a creativity measure online. During the task, some saw a page banner depicting a brain hovering above a box, while others saw a neutral image (a fish) or none at all. The first group of participants indeed showed better insights than the others; they thought, as it were, outside the box.
All the questions about the meaning of life, Plato found, belonged to the same area of knowledge, which we now call philosophy. Plato made the quest for understanding life one unified whole. So he would have loved the worldwide web, and would have likely been a proponent of Internet neutrality and keeping the web “whole.” Plato, the father of philosophy, would have indeed loved the Internet, maybe a little too much.
People with degrees in subjects such as history and literature - and, yes, even philosophy - tend to possess many of the qualities, skill sets, and aptitudes that are in highest demand in my industries that rely on creative thinking and foresight.
Malcolm Gladwell, discusses his latest book: "David and Goliath" at Google.
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.
While virtues have been around since Aristotle, two seminal psychologists from the University of Pennsylvania, Martin Seligman and the late Chris Peterson, undertook research to identify the universal traits that are best about human beings. They combed through nearly 2,500 years of history to identify six core “virtues” found across religions, cultures, nations, and belief systems.
The virtues that made the cut were wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Each virtue contains three to five character strengths, with a total of 24 topping the list. You, just like every other person you work with, have five “signature” strengths - like a unique strain of DNA - that make up the “real you.”
If you're interested in learning more about it, check out award-winning director Tiffany Shlain's 8 minute film, The Science of Character.
Acting on gut feelings without agonising over alternative courses of action has been given scientific credibility by popular books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, in which the author tries to convince us of ‘a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately’.
But what if the allure of decisiveness were leading us astray? What if flip-flopping were adaptive and useful in certain scenarios, shepherding us away from decisions that the devotees of Blink might end up regretting?
Might a little indecision actually be a useful thing?
We write the equivalent of 520 million books every day on social media and email. The fact that so many of us are writing — sharing our ideas, good and bad — has changed the way we think. Just as we now live in public, so do we think in public.