The Art and Science of Data

February 6, 2019
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Constant change seems to be the prevailing theme of the postmodern world. Almost everything around us transformed over the last century and the impact is clear. Constant change means uncertainty and, for businesses especially, it also means risk. So how do we overcome said uncertainty? Most people are wired to avoid uncertainty but as entrepreneurs well know, where risk is questionable so, too, are the rewards.

That is precisely why many entrepreneurs have mastered the art of coping with uncertainty. Forbes contributor, Linda Piea, emphasized as much a few years ago. Some draw strength from their mission to gradually cultivate resilience whereas others deliberately seek and embrace uncertainty. While no single mindset described by Linda appears superior to another one, it is clear that successful entrepreneurs mean to internalize uncertainty in productive ways.

The benefits of becoming comfortable with uncertainty were highlighted much more recently by Patti Johnson at the Harvard Business Review. “The best leaders know how to keep moving forward in ambiguous situations,” wrote Johnson. “Whether it’s a shifting industry or a PR emergency, they’re expected to make decisions even in extremely uncertain circumstances.” Exercising consistently sound judgment under intense pressure is no trivial undertaking. In fact, it is nearly impossible by relying exclusively on seasoned intuition and nerves of steel. At some point, the best entrepreneurs begin to mitigate risk by simply reducing uncertainty wherever possible. And we’re fortunate because our collective ingenuity has armed us with powerful new tools equipped to do exactly that.

Countless industry leaders now turn to data analytics before making major decisions but why stop there? Contributing writer, Bob Violino, published a CIO article drawing attention to the unexpected advantages of examining collected data. “Given the exploratory nature of data analytics, sometimes benefits or insights gleaned are out of the blue,” stressed Violino. His publication is effectively a series of mini business cases that reinforce how curious teams accidentally stumbled upon transformative insights. The presented evidence is definitely more compelling than not.

All sorts of organizations could stand to gain from harnessing data responsibly. That is especially true for businesses competing on the digital forefront. An edge over the adversaries can make a tremendous difference. Consider, for instance, multimillion-dollar sales or service contracts that usually unfold over extended periods–months, possibly years. Those might be streamlined only after extracting hidden wisdom from a robust time series database. Commercial utilization is the tip of the iceberg. Government agencies and nonprofits are no exception, either. They, too, could reap the rewards of data analytics.

While numerous industry professionals do little more than profess how promising technologies are, others are conscientious enough to also infuse a degree of realistic caution. Lisa Morgan at Inc did precisely that when she suggested three tips related to data analytics. One common issue is that far too many novice business leaders are susceptible to sophisticated exploits. “Tools aimed at business users may be oversimplified,” explained Morgan. “Some vendors will say that if one simply presses a button, magic will come out the other end.” Discerning between science fact and science fiction is not easily or reliably accomplished by laypeople. Keep her perspective in mind before diving headlong into data analytics

Suffice it to say that tackling uncertainty is an ambitious feat regardless of who tries. Success depends on a balanced blend of mettle and mindset. The disciplined and naturally adventurous amongst us might find the endeavor appealing, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Nearly everyone can agree that uncertainty is here to stay, which means we can either learn to cope effectively or fall prey to chance more often than not.