Monday, 12 August 2013

Data Specialists in two cities

 A pall of smoke hung over Princes Street Gardens in the Centre of Edinburgh.
‘That’ll be the smoke from the one o’clock cannon,’ explained a native Edinburgh chap to his companion. ‘It goes off every day at one o’clock.’
‘It’s only ten to one’ , his friend  pointed out.

So our native Edinburgher had to respond. What do most people do when the information they are sure is accurate, is not? They feel they have been caught out, the data is inaccurate and they clutch at pet phrases or idioms. They bluster.

‘I’m entitled to my opinion’, he blustered on.  Like the moon is made of green cheese or the earth is flat. Does an ‘opinion’ really mean believing something to be true, which verifiably is not?

In London, at the opposite end of the importance of data scale, I encountered  one of these life changing ‘Aha!’ moments. The chap, peering at a complex data set, pushed his glasses up on to his forehead and said ‘Aha, this is not AF. It’s a history of episodes of SVT.’

This is the world of identifying heart problems and their treatment.
Our chap read a set of data produced by a machine which recorded heart beats and was saying ‘this is not a pattern of irregular and very fast heart beats, merely a pattern of very fast heart beats.’

Important – Oh yes! and directly contradicting the ‘opinion’ of a previous expert.

Another case of ‘everyone’s entitled to their opinion?’

Oh no! – this is a failure by one professional to read a set of data properly, the consequence being a wrong diagnosis and a wrong treatment plan.

Nothing wrong with the data collection, nothing wrong with data presentation – a lot wrong with data interpretation. There are professionals and then there are specialists – often a specialist makes the genuine difference.

Are either of these case studies transferable to your company or organisation?