What comes to mind when you think of data? Is it cold, hard numbers, telling an emotionless truth?
What I find interesting is that our pursuit of this emotionless data is often driven by an actual emotion: curiosity. We’re interested in what the data says, the insights it holds, and how we can draw those insights out to inform decisions—or justify our efforts in a more tangible and provable manner.
Data curiosity is the secret ingredient for a successful data-driven organization. It’s a dynamic part of data culture. It encourages people to persistently and instinctively seek new or existing data, question it, and use it to make more informed decisions.
Unfortunately, it’s also missing in most businesses today. You can have all the right tools and technology, but without an inquisitiveness toward data, your people will be uninspired to seek it and wield it effectively to push your business forward.
So how can a business make data curiosity the norm throughout its workforce?
Associating Success with Data
The best way to get people interested in data is to show them that it works.
Business leaders are in the perfect position to do this, simply because the ability to affect meaningful change typically comes from the top. By examining and questioning the right datasets, they can quickly gain a level of insight into existing problems and empower the relevant business units to solve the issue. And by demonstrating how data is able to enable something not possible in the past, leaders can make the business case for data curiosity to all employees—and set the stage for a more data-centric culture within the business.
Leaders’ actions also pave the way for the use of data to inform the metrics of success within the business. Creating and tying KPIs to the data most relevant to an employee’s line of work empowers that worker to examine—with greater curiosity—the origins of that data, and devise ways to improve and achieve their goals.
By having data framed as one of the enablers to success, employees are more incentivized to approach data willingly, and probe it more consistently, in order to uncover opportunities to capitalize on. The result? Greater levels of innovation, efficiencies and collaboration throughout the organization.
Translating Curiosity into Action
Data curiosity, in a sense, can also be called data accountability. Leaders and managers must allow their employees and teams to question existing solutions and processes—and even seek an explanation, if the data shows them to be inefficient or ineffective. And leadership and employees alike must be ready to support their decisions, and prove the effectiveness of their actions, with irrefutable data.
Having a central data platform—a single source of truth—facilitates this process, allowing the same data to be visible to everyone. An approach that places data as the “check and balance” for the business doesn’t just improve operational efficiencies, it ensures decisions are made with thorough analysis.
On the other hand, a level of unimpeded collaboration and innovation, supported by data, must also be allowed to take place. Cultivating a healthy sense of data curiosity means people shouldn’t just be empowered to access or question data, they should be able to act on it.
Hence, leadership must learn to trust its people to make the right decisions with the data they have, while employees must be open to the possibility of shifting processes or solutions to better facilitate collaboration.
Only when people have the autonomy to act with the data they have can data curiosity move from being a buzzword to something that is practiced daily.
The Right Tools for the Job
The right data management platform won’t just make a data-curious culture possible, it’ll make it easier to maintain.
Much of today’s data, in its original form, is both imposing and unintelligible to most employees. A good data platform will be able to turn business-wide data into a more readable format—such as a visual dashboard—that allows employees to instantly make contextual sense of the information and immediately move toward exploring it for business possibilities.
And with today’s workforce becoming increasingly mobile, the platform must also be responsive and device-ready without sacrificing functionality. Only then can employees continue consulting, questioning and using the data to collaborate or act on, regardless of where they are.
Business leaders should keep in mind that culture isn’t created overnight; it will often be months, or even years, before it reaches full maturity. And in most businesses, it won’t happen without decisive action from the top; business leaders and managers first have to demonstrate the “why” of data curiosity in order for their people to follow suit.
Business leaders will also need to ensure their data management platforms are capable of keeping up with the pace of their business, and facilitate the needs of their highly mobile workforces. Only with these elements in place can organizations ensure their people tap into data as easily as they breathe—and use it to fuel digital innovation and growth.