20 thoughts on “Visualizing the role of data for mission-based organizations

  1. Todd Anderson 12/03/2013 at 3:03 pm Reply

    I see your dilemma — the circular logo expresses the continuous nature of the process. But it looks like your lengthening arrows want to convey the sense of “progress” — each step contributing to the next. Although I like the linear arrows, they are not connected to each other. Could you perhaps blend your arrows into some kind of gradient where each element is clearly connected to the next?

  2. Patricia Duarte 12/03/2013 at 3:11 pm Reply

    I love your model/explanation! To visualize, consider the classic circular target or “bulls eye” image where the center nugget is data and each separate ring is the next level of intel – information, knowledge, wisdom,

  3. Pat Suhrcke 12/03/2013 at 3:13 pm Reply

    I voted for cyclical, because that diagram most clearly conveys the process of using data to fulfill mission and improve performance.

    I do think another diagram would also be useful–to show how unorganized data must be organized, shaped, compressed, reviewed, and revised in order to be used effectively. I, of course, have no idea how to convey this visually. (A trash compacter does come to mind, however)

    Pat Suhrcke

  4. Susan Ruderman 12/03/2013 at 5:15 pm Reply

    Another Cyclical fan here! I would consider changing the arrows to the wider, open curved arrows (I’m sure they have a name but I am blanking on it right now!) to show that there is flow. For some reason, the thin arrows make the relationship seem more formulaic and constricted to me. I might suggest making making some of the arrows double-ended to show how stage informs the other. I might even put Data in the center as a sort of hub and spoke arrangement. But the cyclical one captures it best as is.

  5. Abby 12/03/2013 at 5:28 pm Reply

    I understand your dilemma as well, and I like the progression you describe. In my mind, as I was reading the process you describe in the written paragraphs, I was envisioning some sort of building block metaphor. This (or something similar) could be a good metaphor to pursue because it seems challenging to show that each part is connected, but requires step-by-step synthesis, but that it ultimately should lead to progress. Perhaps a building, or building blocks? You could say some clever things about a foundation, show the upward mobility of the progress, and how you need every step to build a solid structure. Innovation is also commonly discussed in building metaphors. Good luck!

  6. Ari Herzog 12/03/2013 at 5:43 pm Reply

    I like Patricia’s bullseye model — and you could also consider a hub and spoke model. The upward arrows don’t work for me.

  7. Marvin Mao 12/03/2013 at 6:15 pm Reply

    The linear model conveys a sense of progress, but the circular model more clearly illustrates the sequential nature of the overall process. Would a model using concentric circles (or any shape of your choice) work?

  8. Georges Grinstein 12/03/2013 at 9:56 pm Reply

    I have used a modification of a famous figure from Usama Fayyad, Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, and Padhraic Smyth’s From Data Mining to Knowledge Discovery in Databases (with a typo but fixed in several articles and books), and have extended it by replacing their transformations of data (which included selection, preprocessing, data mining and interpretation/evaluation as steps) with Information (=structured and enriched data) and adding Decision Making. I did not know how to place a figure here so…
    Data -> Information -> Knowledge all for Decision Making.
    or as steps:
    Select -> Preprocess -> Transform -> Data Mine -> Interpret/Evaluate -> Make Decision

    Data mining can simply be thought of as analyze/visualize

  9. […] First of all, I want to say that I distrust the term "data-driven organization," even though some very highly respected colleagues use it in their writings and their conversations. I firmly believe…  […]

  10. thinkdata 12/03/2013 at 11:21 pm Reply

    or the linear one the bottom value should not fbe zero, but rather overlap the arrow head of the former

    • thinkdata 12/03/2013 at 11:24 pm Reply

      And besides, circles are closed

  11. Mollie Murphy 12/04/2013 at 12:37 am Reply

    Hi Deborah! This is fantastic! I think your theory is spot on. I like the linear logo better for the concept you’re communicating.

    This likely won’t be helpful, but I liked the verb “roll” you used in the description of the process. I’m not sure if there is a way to visualize it so it looks like a snowball picking up layers and thereby becoming bigger and better.

    Now that that’s written, that seems somewhat ridiculous. I always struggle with visual representations of ideas!

    • thinkdata 12/04/2013 at 10:02 am Reply

      makes me think of a leaning snowman – with the higher order elements physically smaller but located higher and to the right and therefore implying greater importance

  12. Bill Barnert 12/04/2013 at 1:30 am Reply

    I think they both miss the major point you are trying to make, which is that the data LEADS TO information which LEADS TO …, each with a necessary catalyst. The first one seems ti imply that the further to the right you go, the more important the item is, and that they are each independent. The second implies circular, that you end up back where you started, which I dont; think is what you mean. (True, decisions lead to more data, but I think showing it as linear with a loop-back at the end is truer to what you mean than a complete circle where you can start anywhere, What you really want to show is that you start with DATA, which is ANALYZED into INFORMATION, which is ENHANCED BY UNDERSTANDING into KNOWLEDGE, … etc. So you need to show each noun being worked on by a verb to get the next noun, and so forth, so you see the PROCESS of turning data into good decisions. WHich generates more data (loop back to start).

  13. milkrow 12/04/2013 at 11:12 am Reply

    I don’t think either illustrate the point to the degree that you’ve explained it in your post. The arrow bar graph treatment, I feel, is difficult to grasp because it separates the ideas into separate verticals that don’t show cumulative progress.

    The circular flow chart shows much of what you mean, but I would not prefer this because it leaves out “innovation” and the context for the use of innovation in each step of the process—and the context of external forces at each of those steps. While it likely sounds too complicated…a diagram much like that which explains evaporation (as a system) comes to mind.

    Bill Barnett’s post above is important to consider. Are the actions taken at each step different? I wonder if they should be included so that each arrow doesn’t hold the same meaning. That is valuable to impart to the viewer who must understand what it means to carry forth one action to the next.

  14. Joanna Marks 12/04/2013 at 11:48 am Reply

    I like the concept of a feedback loop but the cyclical logo gives the impression that things aren’t ever moving forward. Is there a way you could make it into a near-circle that spins out (sort of a curly-q?) as a series of loops/circles moving to the right? Where mission success is along the bottom of the image and the viewer can tell that is growing continually? Hard to explain in words but you’re on the right track with these questions and brainstorming!

  15. Daniel 12/04/2013 at 5:14 pm Reply

    Hey Deb. I selected the circular graphic because I like to see the inter-relation of information not just flow, which is why I enjoy Venn Diagrams so much. I’m not sure either of the choices really does it for me, but I like the circular over the linear.

  16. Michele 12/04/2013 at 5:15 pm Reply

    Hi, Deborah,

    A valuable point that bears repeating, especially in this information- and misinformation-overladen age!

    I agree with the others that the arrow chart is hard to read and the circular flow chart seems limited. I would add that the my enters the circular flow chart at “wisdom,” whereas you probably want to enter at “data,” given the narrative you want it to tell. And it seems like a leap to go from mission success to data (maybe something like “evaluation” is missing?). I think the circular flow chart also works against you by using the same visual (identical boxes) to communicate concepts you are trying to distinguish (information is not the same as knowledge, etc.).

    I found some graphics that I liked that might spur you in your visual thinking. Here’s one, which also captures the error in mistaking data for knowledge:

    I think the graphic is simpler and so more powerful with fewer steps (wisdom and good decisions seem similar: can you have one without the other?).

    This one is linear, but I liked the pairing of a graphic with text and the connection between wisdom and the future:

    Blessings in your teaching and inspiring!
    Michele 🙂

  17. Deborah Elizabeth Finn 12/04/2013 at 9:49 pm Reply

    Many thanks all around to those who are commenting – I’m thoroughly enjoying the brainstorming.

    If you’d like to see my latest version of this graphic, please go to https://deborahelizabethfinn.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/visualizing-the-role-of-data-for-mission-based-organizations-round-ii/

  18. Sayra 12/04/2013 at 10:16 pm Reply

    I would use something that looks more like the ladder of inference.

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