Data vs. Decision-Making

July 7, 2015 Kris Hammond

Our billions-of-dollars investment in Big Data has produced innumerable business intelligence and visualization tools. No amount of data is too large. No combination of algorithms is too many. No visualization is too complex. But no spreadsheet or dashboard can tell you what you need to know to improve your business. This you must figure out for yourself. Or rely on someone to figure it out for you.

At Narrative Science, we approach data in a better way. We find the meaning and insight and communicate it in a form that makes natural sense to everyone: a story. Narrative Analytics is a method in which the analysis, information and data is completely driven by the needs of the communication, whether it’s an earnings report, performance review or company blog post. There is nothing left to decipher. All you need to do is read.

I understand that there are people who say that they like looking at spreadsheets, that they are “visual thinkers” who can quickly get information out of the charts and graphs. But think for a moment about what this means. They would prefer doing work that a computer could do for them in far less time and, if we are going to be clear about this, with a much higher level of reliability. This would be like saying you’d prefer to spend your time lining up the left side of the text in a Word document rather than having the computer line it up automatically. Like saying that you’d prefer analyzing commodities to figure out the second derivative of a graph so you can say something about the rate at which something is getting better or worse. Does this seem smart?

The whole point of gathering data in the first place is to discover insights that make us smarter. At least, it was. Somewhere along the way the focus shifted from gaining insights from the data to amassing the data itself.

Narrative Analytics gets us back to our goal. Data is crucial, but it is not about terabytes or petabytes; it is about the story you want to tell that is grounded in that data, the story that makes us smarter.

This same argument holds true when it comes to human communication. When we want to say something about the world, we, too, have to refer to the data we have at hand and use it to support the statements we make. We, too, need to attend and adhere to the rules of evidence and the reality of statistics when we are presenting arguments and trying to explain to others what is happening. The core tenants of Narrative Analytics are not about machines, they are about the stories they can tell us.

It all comes down to a simple choice: data or decision-making? You can choose to spend time figuring out what it all means. Or you can choose to have it easily and quickly explained to you, arming you with better knowledge to make decisions based upon the output.

I think you know what the smart choice is.

Narrative Analytics: Turn numbers into knowledge. Learn how in our new white paper. Click to get your copy.


Kris Hammond is the Chief Scientist of Narrative Science. Connect with Kris on  and Twitter.

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