Are you a Data Elbow?

Are you a Data Elbow?

tl;dr - when we fail to influence with data it’s not because the culture doesn’t care about data: we build a data-informed culture by being proactive, simplifying insights, promoting our insights in multiple ways and settings and leveraging connections. Credit to Katie Bauer for the “elbows of data” framing, do read her post!

AI generated data elbow

The Secret to Making Data-Informed Decisions: Stop Complaining and Start Engaging!

Do you ever find yourself in a huddle with fellow data enthusiasts, lamenting about how your insights are often overlooked or only sought after the fact? You’re not alone. We’ve all been there, grumbling about how product teams only come to us for validation, or how we’re brought in too late to make a real impact. But here’s the thing - if our decisions aren’t data-informed, it’s not their fault; it’s ours.

Let’s flip the script and take charge of our role as data experts! Here are four powerful ways we can make sure our insights are woven into the fabric of every decision:

  1. Be Proactive: Don’t wait for an invitation to share your expertise. Dive into proposals, PRs, design docs and discussions with gusto. Show them that you’re eager to contribute valuable insights from the get-go.
  2. Simplify Decision-Making: Help your team navigate complex choices by sharing what you know in a clear and concise manner. The easier it is for them to understand your findings, the more likely they’ll be to incorporate them into their decision-making process.
  3. Promote Your Work: No one has time to read everything you write (even if it’s pure gold). Make sure your work gets noticed by presenting it in various formats and settings that resonate with different audiences. Keep reminding them of your expertise so they’ll remember to seek your input next time around.
  4. Forge Connections: Data is most powerful when combined with insights from other areas of the organization. Build relationships with colleagues from different area like support, finance or product development so that you can create a holistic view of any situation and provide truly valuable input.

I was motivated to write this when I came across Elbows of data - by Katie Bauer - Wrong But Useful. I thought she was spot on and I felt guilty for every time I whined about not being in a culture that valued data. I also thought she uses a metaphor that many will find easier to resonate with and wanted to share that. The key takeaway from her post:

The most impactful data folks I’ve worked with in my career have not been iconoclastic or revolutionary heads of data, nor have they been analytically brilliant data scientists or mastermind architect data engineers. They’ve been elbows of data—folks who have insisted on being involved in driving the company forward, whether they were invited to or not.

And her advice:

  • Elbows of data make a habit of fact finding. If teams at their companies send weekly updates or quarterly newsletters, they engage with them. Sometimes they skim them, sometimes they read them carefully, sometimes they chime in on an email thread to call out something that caught their eye.
  • Elbows of data also think about the second life of their work. They of course do their work with a specific customer or audience in mind, but they are also keenly aware that one of the most valuable things about data work is how cross-cutting it is.
  • they share their work in a format that can be consumed without deep context. Elbows of data have strong partnerships with their stakeholders, but they know their work can be relevant and influential to more than their day-to-day collaborators.
  • elbows of data don’t wait to be asked, for their opinion, to be invited to meet with someone, or to solve impactful problems that aren’t obviously anyone’s job to solve.
  • Elbows of data are proactive about explaining their constraints and asking for what they need.
  • if the stakeholder asks the elbow of data if they can do anything to help speed things up? The elbow of data has an answer prepared

Through proactive engagement and collaboration within our organizations we can make data-informed decisions become the norm, rather than the exception. Now go elbow someone with your data insights.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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