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(kray-tee-o): to have power, be powerful

  • Writer's pictureClay Sharman

Data: the Ocean or the Desert?

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

So, everyone I talk to about their business tells me the same thing. "Oh, we have data! We have data on everything. We're constantly looking at data." But how does looking at data translate into action? Or insight? Or revenue? How can data be useful if you don't understand what you are looking at or how it brings value?


This is where data gets tricky.


I used to think of data like an ocean: an endless, vast body that leaves it up to you to figure out how to cross it to find your way. But on an ocean, land is always "ho" somewhere and you can get lucky sometimes. Data, however, removes "luck" and has the potential to lead nowhere, which may still be important in terms of understanding, but is the exact opposite of the goal of crossing an ocean.

I think this desert sand is starting to get to me
"Hey! I found something! Wait, no, it's just a rock."

No...I see now that data is much closer to archeology.


Tedious, dry, unforgiving, small victories (if any at all), and years of searching with no guarantee of results. Archeologists are patient, make no judgements on the findings until they can be properly studied, and understand that the results may be wildly different than what they set out to find. THIS sounds much more like data science to me.


Data is the key to finding the clues that unlock our understanding and lead us to the answer. This is a critical difference that requires a radical shift in our data approach.


It turns out we don't need to sail further.


We need to dig deeper.











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