Why We Need Creative People to Help Understand Data

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Why Creative People Are Need to Help Understand Data

May 25, 2012

One of the largest problems facing organizations today is Big Data. I’m sure you’ve read countless articles highlighting the growing concern of the costs associated with sorting and analyzing the ever growing volume.

A study conducted by consulting firm McKinsey on Big Data, found that as organizations have become smarter, US companies in every sector will have “at least an average of 200 terabytes of stored data (twice the size of the US retailer Wal-Mart’s data warehouse in 1999) per company with more than 1,000 employees.” And that’s not the worst of it. We’re currently faced with a large gap, according to the same report there is “a need for 1.5 million additional managers and analysts in the United States who can ask the right questions and consume the results of Big Data effectively.” As the amount of information we have access to continues to increase and affect our daily lives, it’s going to be important to include as many different disciplines as possible.

So why creatives?

It’s no surprise that as we have greater access to data, it ends up playing a larger role in our daily lives. In a recent TED Talk, New York Times Data artist in residence, Jer Thorp, talked about the effects that big data is having on our daily lives. As we have greater access to more data, it becomes easier to distance ourselves from it. He warns about the possible issues that may ensue if we forget that all of this data is based off of individuals. A great way to make sure we don’t run the risk of forgetting that what we’re collecting is information about people’s lives, he believes that organizations should include artists, poets, writers – people who can bring a human element to the Big Data discussion.

Jer Thorp isn’t the only one who believes in the importance of encouraging multiple disciplines to pull up a seat at the Big Data discussion. I came across an interesting blog post by Jose Baldaia talking about the need to have creatives to help organizations make sense out of Big Data. Jose Baldaia points out that if we fail to include creatives “we risk witnessing the return of ‘super specialists’, or people who are in our organization to solve problems relating to their discipline but are unable to collaborate to solve the problems of other disciplines.” If you think about it, Baladia brings up a valid point – if we fail to bring in differing opinions you run the risk of becoming too myopic, and unable to work with others.

What do you think? Do you think we are making a mistake by excluding creative people, or do they really help organizations understand data better?

Image Source: www.iStockphoto.com

One Response to “Why We Need Creative People to Help Understand Data”

  1. Jen Kunkle-Clark

    I think you make a very valid point. When you involve creative people in processes such as this, (whether or not they specialize in a particular area) they bring along the flexibility that comes with being an “outsider.” Most importantly, the ability to identify patterns/trends etc. “insiders” may be unable to notice because they have too intimate a relationship with the data or subject matter. It’s similar to the way a good writer seeks the input of editors and proofreaders because their own errors and omissions can be difficult to detect.


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