The importance of curiosity and confidence in growing a data-driven culture
Data alone isn’t valuable — it’s what you do with it. But too often, organizations don’t have the confidence or curiosity needed to explore data to deal effectively with change. How can you create sparks of curiosity across your organization? How do you balance curiosity and governance? What do incentives for curiosity look like?
Domo’s Curiosity video series took on these points in a discussion led by Donald Farmer, Principal at TreeHive Strategy with Mico Yuk, CEO of BI Brainz Group, and Ben Schein, VP of Data Curiosity at Domo.
Driving behavioral change
The biggest barrier — outside of choosing the best way to manage data — is simply driving behavioral change in employees. A question Schein frequently poses to his team is, “how do we change the culture of how data is used in organizations?”. This overarching question should remain a constant one for leaders, as data use and tools continually change form.
Yuk encourages the ethos with her clients that “if you have data and can tell a story, you have a superpower” — therefore, you can control a narrative and how people respond to things. Schein underlines this, saying that it is the potential to ignite change with data that helps drive excitement, whether it be as simple as increases in revenue or support in tech for good, such as tracking and handling COVID-19 cases. “It’s exciting to see how it feels for people who have never had curiosity generated from data before,” he says.
Driving behavioral change is necessary when employees were previously taught not to be curious because data curiosity would mean extra workload for the IT teams beyond their regular reporting. This stifled curiosity results in rigid legacy tools and reporting — in the past, there was only a subset of people who understood raw data. Schein says: “If you rely on the 5% who know how to analyze raw data, there will be no movement in curiosity.”
Growing confidence in data use
Yuk outlines that many organizations struggle with a lack of confidence in making decisions from data. This hesitancy surfaces when it’s time to take action and take accountability for decisions. New data models and tools won’t solve that problem — ultimately a cultural shift is needed to encourage confident data-driven decision-making.
Often employees work out what they need to do with data in their own minds but never progress it. Yuk and her team teach people about asking the right questions to grow in confidence and trust that their thought process to utilize data is usually correct.
A change in organizational dynamics has also affected confidence in general, for example, working remotely. Yuk finds that naturally introverted people are communicating more via “chats.” Video calls have also leveled the playing field — factors like size, demeanor, and other intimidating boardroom factors no longer inhibit communication.
The role of user experience
Farmer brought to light the varying levels of information retention dependent on device size and engagement, and tested this idea by comparing the retention of information when data is presented on a large static screen in a conference room vs. iPads where employees can directly interact with data. The results showed that the big screen was too impersonal and highlighted that access, attention, and interaction with that data seems less likely.
So what is the role of user experience in curiosity and confidence? It creates transparency and connectivity to the data. Schein highlights that presenting data once a month or quarter isn’t going to grow employee curiosity. She says: “If you are responsible with the live data, you have a connection with the data and the way it flows through the conversation.”
Yuk references neurological programming as a form of generating curiosity within data dashboards—for example, subtext outlining “what most people looked at” or “this report was viewed 50,000 times”. Yuk usually teaches her clients to pay attention to these small triggers, as this usually sparks action from those new to working with data.
Balance governance with curiosity
In many circumstances to date, “gatekeepers” of data have been seen as a blocker. Yet this perception has only been made simply because free access to uncertified data can pose a risk to any business. So, how do you strike a balance between curiosity and governance?
Farmer outlines that successfully implemented governance frees up employees to be curious. With certified data, you then have the realm to act with confidence as users trust the data and the ability to take action from it. Schein also notes that governance should be seen as a foundation rather than a safety net — it’s something you can build on to encourage adoption.
As a closing remark, Schein says that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome with new data users is simply patience. Many believe it’s a transaction of “here it is,” given by the IT department, yet it takes working at it together as an organization for it to be widely adapted and for the culture to change.
To learn more about driving curiosity and confidence in your organization, watch episode four of our ‘Curiosity: Do Data Differently’ video series here.