Data literacy is a skill that isn’t on most people’s radar, but it should be. Everybody needs to be comfortable with data to succeed in today’s digital age. These are core skills we need to effectively process information (and identify misinformation) both inside and outside the workplace.
You don’t need to know advanced statistical, data engineering, or modeling techniques to make this happen.
Consider the words of Brent Dykes below:
“Just like people don’t need an advanced English degree to be literate, your employees don’t need advanced statistical knowledge and programming skills in Python or R to be data literate. Reading and writing skill levels are often defined by what people can or can’t accomplish in their everyday life—we must do the same for data literacy.”
This is a skill:
• Everyone can learn and get good at
• Will empower you to understand data and information better
• Will help you make data informed decisions
A Simple Playbook
Here is my high level individual data literacy playbook. This advice applies to everyone, from entry level analyst up to executives.
• Be Curious: Dig into what is driving the trends you see. Understand your data better. I call this “Root Cause Analysis”. This process always starts with the question “Why?”
• Be OK With Being “Wrong”: Your first cut at a model or explanation will rarely be right. Get comfortable with that. It is ok to make an initial assessment, talk with others, learn, and change your assessment. Many people will dig their heels in to show their initial assessment was correct. Don’t do that.
• Be Cognizant Of Bias: You might think you don’t have biases, but you do. We all do. Try your best to be aware of how these biases might skew your analysis and perspective.
• Be Fluent In The Language Of Data: Data has its own distinct language. My next post will focus on this as it is the foundation for everything else.
• Be Willing To Ask For Help: Building data literacy is hard work. Learning on your own is great, but be sure to also learn from others to accelerate your growth. Getting a mentor that is already an expert can drastically reduce the time needed to boost data literacy.
• Understand The Power Of A Great Visualization: Data visualization (visual communication) is the graphical representation of information and data. This is one of the best tools in the tool belt of a business professional to help communicate information and insights clearly and efficiently to a wide audience.
A good visualization is an excellent way to see and understand trends, outliers, and patterns in data that might otherwise go unnoticed.
These are 6 questions you should ask to create powerful visualizations.
Hopefully this series has highlighted why data literacy is so important and will help you start to develop your data skills. If you want to get good at anything you need to practice, so be sure to look for opportunities to flex these new data muscles.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t recommend my friend Jordan Morrow’s excellent TEDx talk on data literacy. Video below.
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