Data is becoming an increasingly important part of our personal lives, our businesses, and our work. Those of us who spend our days solving difficult problems will rely on this data as a tool to help us understand our world and do new things.
But data should not drive us. It should be a signal from the wider world that we use to help answer questions and ask new ones. The insights must come from us.
If you are a designer, engineer, or in any role that creates things, you probably hear a lot about 'big data' and being 'data driven'.
The assumption is that data equals insight and direction. But does it? Data, any data, in any amount brings with it problems that make it very dangerous to rely on alone.
Small data, big data, it doesn’t matter. All data is incomplete at some level. Data alone can also have the effect of clouding our ability to see creative solutions, even to simple problems.
An article in medium.com suggests a few tips on how you can approach data that will enrich creativity and enable to use the information at hand in a powerful way.
* Data is meaningless only if we are expecting objective truth from it without factoring in our perceptions and assumptions and getting past those with our creativity.
Creativity allows us to take the data we have, question our starting assumptions about what the data is telling us, and experiment until we make something useful out of it.
The idea here is that we should use data as information, not as insight. For data to support truly creative or innovative outcomes, we must allow it to inform us of the facts so we can ask questions and experiment with the 'adjacent possible' to discover the insights and potential that the raw data doesn’t provide.
* Experimentation and play are ways to explore new possibilities. The best way to put exploration into practice is to start with questions. To put some of the ideas above to the test, go back to the candle problem and see how you might take the data and question it to come up with new possibilities.
* For most of us, our creativity allows us to explore not all possible outcomes, but only a small portion of what is possible, limited by our history, biases, and perspectives. This is how our brains evolved. We create memories throughout our lives and draw from those memories, or our “history”, when we need to make decisions about the future (any future, immediate or long-term). This is why we interpret data differently. We only have our own history to draw from, and everyone’s history is slightly to vastly different from each other.
Data, rather than being the driver of creativity, brings opportunities for different perceptions, ideas and, most importantly, questions. The more homogeneous a team is the more efficient it might be, but it’s almost certain to be less creative, and creativity is what you desperately need when solving difficult problems.
While diversity is not a magic bullet?—?teams must be willing to get out of their comfort zones and embrace their differences?—?diverse teams are generally smarter than homogeneous ones.