How Data Visualization Can Help Make Better Decisions

Filed Under Visualization

by
December 9, 2011

 
Decisions

We all know that data visualization allows data to tell a story, but just what does that mean?

Each day we’re shown all sorts of infographics telling us the how different age groups interact online, the history of Steve Job’s career or cell phone texting statistics. While fun, these inforgaphics feel slightly esoteric. Today, I wanted to help show real life applications of data visualization and help answer the question: How can data visualization help me make better decisions?

In a recent blog post from MSNBC, Pat Hu, associate administrator and director of the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics was interviewed about this very question. He points out that data visualization does have some pretty powerful purposes. For example, the following graphic helps explain when most mid-air collisions take place, helping provide support for decisions regarding designing new air traffic control systems.

Mid-air collisions

http://dataviz.challenge.gov/submissions/5210-analysis-of-near-mid-air-collision-reports-for-the-identification-of-locations-with-high-mid-air-collision-risk

 Or this graphic, quickly showing the change in the volume of commercial airline flights in the USA. This helps drive the point home that because more flights are routed through fewer hubs, delays can still increase. Prompting airports to reevaluate their infrastructure to accommodate possibly more delays.

Change in commercial flight volume

http://dataviz.challenge.gov/submissions/4189-aviation-in-the-usa-1998-to-2010

So, you can see that while entertaining to look at, infographics play an important role in decision making. That’s what makes the visualization of information so great, you can create this awesome looking graphics that not only help portray a lot of information quickly and easily, but are incredibly powerful in helping with the decision making process.

Your Turn

  • When was the last time data visualization helped you come to an important decision?
  • What was the decision you faced?
  • Would you consider using data visualization again?
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