Data culture might not be as important as you think

Jul 05, 2022

I so looked forward to a bike ride this weekend.  It was great to hit the road (avoiding NJ potholes) and best yet, I hit my goal … 10 minutes.  

You see, since November, I’ve been recovering from weightlifting injuries.  Two weeks ago my doctor cleared me to ride for 10 minutes.  

Did you catch that?  I was cleared two weeks ago and just made it out.

I was afraid of reinjuring myself and having a setback or being in pain and staying off the bike.  So I waited for the “perfect” time.

I see colleagues and clients face the same hesitation when it comes to introducing a new approach to data visualization and data literacy.

It’s rarely a technical issue.  They are concerned the change will be disruptive or rejected.  Typically, this falls under the topic of data culture.

It certainly is about data … but I say it’s plain old culture.  Personal change is hard.  Company change is hard.  New topic; same challenges.

Don’t delay like I did.  Get started with these three steps:

  1. Stop saying, “We need to change data culture.”  Maybe you heard this statement during a keynote or read it in a report.  But without actionable recommendations, data culture is a theoretical idea.

  2. Work with a colleague to share risk.  We avoid change to avoid risk.  In my experience, actual personal risks are low; perceived risk is high.  Spread the risk – remember to also share the reward.

  3. List the risks, real and perceived, in as much detail as possible.  Usually, we use the term “risk” loosely and that allows it to have more power over us.  Create specific ways to minimize each risk element.

Here are the kinds of risks I discuss with clients:

  • My boss doesn’t trust the data and wants to see a table with numbers.
  • Everyone knows what green and red mean.  I can’t change those colors.
  • I should know what the CEO wants; I'll look stupid asking questions.

What risks are holding you back?  Comment and let’s discuss. 

 “Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today” – Ben Franklin

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