4 Ways Data Visualization Drives Change
Data visualization amplifies your data story. Think of the elements that make up a strong and compelling story. They contain a tantalizing plot, well-developed characters, a climax, and satisfying conclusion. You read books or watch movies that keep you captivated from start to finish and leave you wanting more.
Storytelling with data plays a relevant role at organizations these days. What distinguishes storytelling at your organization from your favorite movie or book though is using data to tell your narrative. Without data to aid your story, it is challenging to prove your point, get buy-in for software, and instill confidence because these days trusting your gut isn’t sufficient enough to run an organization. However, you can’t use data alone to tell your story.
You need a visual representation to deliver your message so that it creates a lasting impression on your colleagues. When you combine data with a visual, you are giving your staff the power to take action and better align themselves with your organization’s overarching goals.
Here are 4 ways data visualization can ultimately drive change at your organization...
1. Data becomes the natural and normal way to help make informed, data-guided decisions.
The human brain processes images 3X faster than text, and your brain is excellent at detecting patterns and interpreting the meaning. The visual system is extremely powerful because you process the visual field at once, and you spot trends and outliers very quickly. The visual cortex is part of the amygdala – the original reptilian part of our brain responsible for your survival. The cerebral cortex, or thinking part of your brain came much later in our evolution. Seeing images occurs quicker than processing the story embedded within the data.
It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand numbers. So, what is it exactly about visual images that make data so much easier to digest? It’s your ability to quickly see the most important information and to detect relationships. Pictures and colors allow you to take mental shortcuts. Data visualization allows you to see important correlations quickly without getting lost in the details. Armed with the data story, decisions pertaining to your organization are easier to make since you’re using data to guide your strategy. Data visualization opens up a new and more powerful way to look at your organization and identify what’s working and what isn’t.
Remember though, not all visualizations are created equal. It varies with every organization because each one is unique in their own way. You should choose the best representation for data (such as a bar, line, or bubble chart), and consider the relationship of the elements. Testing different visualizations might need to happen and that’s okay to do. What works for one department or organization might be less suitable for you.
2. You have a better chance of getting buy-in for other data analytics tools.
Data visualization gives your data a narrative that you can readily share with your executive team. It’s important to know your audience before you create your visual though. Consider a use case that’s relevant and interesting to your audience so it demonstrates the value of your data and gives them actionable insights that ultimately help them do their jobs better.
There will be instances when you present your data visualization to people who are either skeptical of data or investing in analytics tools. Chances are, their doubts stem from the lack of a single source of truth at your organization. While processes have been established so this is less of a pain point among your team, sometimes the executive team might be less aware of that because they aren’t “in the weeds” like you are. It’s up to you to prove to them that data has always been an asset at your organization, and data visualization is a great way to reaffirm that mindset.
Using data visualization carries more authority and credibility rather than simply going with your gut. You have to show how the data impacts them and in turn the organization as a whole. As humans, we tend to ask the question “How does this impact me?” People need to understand how it benefits them and how it will help them succeed in their roles.
When you showcase a data visualization that reveals a compelling story, you’re more inclined to see staff members embrace the idea of investing in other data analytics tools. They’ll be able to recognize the positive impact that data storytelling can have on their ROI and will be open to incorporating data analytics tools into their activities.
3. You’re more empowered in your role.
Data visualization should be presented in a non-technical way that anyone at your organization can decipher. When you’re not accustomed to using data to support your decisions nor have you seen it in a visually appealing way, it creates intimidation and casts doubt around its effectiveness. Making your data narrative easy to digest cuts through those doubts and makes it accessible to anyone. When something is accessible and easy to understand, you’re more likely to see people embrace it and incorporate it into their roles. Your colleagues are more empowered because they can thrive in their respective positions and unite behind the goals and mission of your organization.
4. It inspires a data-guided culture overtime.
Establishing a specific type of work culture doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience, and it’s typically a multi-step approach. One step to take is to encourage departments to create their own data visualizations to tell their data stories. It’s also beneficial to provide organizational-wide access to data reports so that everyone has the opportunity to view and analyze the data themselves. Then, data becomes more shareable across teams and creates transparency around what your colleagues are doing. Knowledge-sharing becomes a normal part of your organization’s culture. Data literacy becomes more wide-spread because you’re referring to it on a routine basis to help inform your strategy and decisions. Your brain becomes accustomed to synthesizing the information, spotting trends, and identifying patterns because you’re seeing it in a visual representation. Organizations that cultivate a data-guided culture reap the benefits of their efforts.
If done well and with company-wide buy-in, data visualization helps your organization flourish because you’re using data to guide your decisions and empowering your team to have visibility into how their activities are performing.
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