4 Ways Data Visualization Can Improve Your Decision Making
Every day, business leaders are responsible for decisions that impact the outcomes of their organizations. Some of these decisions can hold massive implications. Luckily in the digital era, big data has led the way and empowered leaders to make better, data-driven decisions.
Big data allows businesses to leverage massive quantities of information. We produced 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. While new technology offers us the means of collecting lots of data, the information renders useless if we cannot turn it into actionable insights.
Enter data visualization: a graphical representation of information and data. Data visualization enables us to transform massive amounts of raw data into consumable insights, making it a powerful tool people can use to make better, data-driven decisions.
Your organization may not produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, but you can still leverage data visualization to improve your decision-making processes and business’ outcomes.
How Do We Make Decisions?
The average person makes a stunning 35,000 choices per day. People have been creating, adapting, and refining decision-making techniques long before big data made its entrance. Scientists have also been studying these techniques for decades, trying to understand how we can make good decisions, and how we can avoid bad decisions.
So how exactly do we reach a decision?
Research shows that we make decisions by forming opinions and choosing actions through "mental processes which are influenced by biases, reason, emotions, and memories." While we work hard to develop rational, logical conclusions, there are still several factors that can limit our ability to make the right decisions.
Here are four ways that data visualization can reduce these factors and improve your decision-making.
4 Ways Data Visualization Improves Decision Making
1 | Increase Speed
Information travels at the speed of light in our always-connected world. Due to the fast pace of business, managers are often expected to make critical decisions in short periods. If you are not timely, an opportunity may pass by, or a small problem may grow exponentially worse overnight.
Data visualization can help you draw actionable insights from massive amounts of data in a short amount of time. Even a simple visualization, like a bar graph, can present valuable insights in seconds. Take a look at the example below:
Data collected from a corporate technology assessment is organized into this colorful bar graph. By glancing at the chart, an IT manager could immediately recognize which skills need improvement. From there, the manager could decide to allocate resources towards training and recruiting in these skill areas. All within a few minutes.
2 | Improve Accuracy
Business leaders must make timely and informed decisions. However, collecting and efficiently reviewing all of the numbers is not always a reasonable option. What happens when you don't have all of the facts before making a decision? You fill in the blanks with assumptions and biases.
Psychologists labeled this quick fix as heuristics. Heuristics are mental shortcuts that allow people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. However, these shortcuts can lead to cognitive biases that can taint our decision-making process. For some decisions, relying on heuristics is perfectly acceptable, but for high-impact decisions, missing information can lead to serious missteps.
While big data provides decision-makers with all the information, it's not always presented in a consumable form. Imagine for every high-impact decision you must scroll through rows of data compiled in a spreadsheet, just to digest all the facts. It's unreasonable, time-consuming, and confusing.
As a manager, you need to spend your time driving action, not analyzing numbers. When it's hard to consume data, it's easy to ignore the facts and lean on our biases. Instead of wasting valuable time analyzing rows of data or falling back on your assumptions, use visualizations to identify relevant information quickly.
Data visualization simplifies the information, reducing the need to fill the gaps with your personal biases. In the bar chart above, you can easily see a comparison of all the skills across the workforce. When you need to decide where to allocate resources, your decision is based on factual data, not assumptions.
3 | Simplify Communication
A decision is just words until it is carried out through people's actions. After you make a decision, you must effectively communicate your thoughts with the people who will carry out the subsequent steps. In the same way that data visualization simplifies data analysis, it can also streamline and objectify communication.
For example, a manager at an engineering firm determines his lead mechanical engineer needs to improve his solar, thermal skills (red column) and assigns him to training. The manager could just say this to his engineer. However, now, the engineer is left with several unanswered questions. Why does he need training? Where should his thermal skills be right now? Does his manager dislike him?
While the decision may be apparent to the manager, it isn't communicated clearly to the engineer. How can you expect people to take effective action when the message isn't clear in the first place?
Alternatively, the manager could use the graph below to clearly communicate why he is making this decision to the developer:
The chart clearly shows which skills do not meet the ideal proficiency levels and by how much those skills need to improve. By presenting his message in visual form, the manager can ensure the engineer understands why he needs training and how he can gauge his progress. The visualization shifted the manager's message from unclear and subjective to concise and objective.
4 | Empower Collaboration
Leaders should always seek the perspectives of others to enhance their decision-making process. Research shows that “being able to view the decision environment from multiple perspectives enhances the decision-maker's ability to make better-informed choices.”
Related Post: The Power of Data Visualization
Data visualization turns raw data into a universally, consumable form. By providing access to valuable information, you give people the tools to develop more informed opinions and empower them to contribute their perspective in the decision-making process. Provoking diverse thought is especially important when leaders are faced with high-impact decisions that affect their organizations.
Great decision-making has always been a crucial skill for business leaders. Big data can put you ahead of the competition if you can use it to produce timely, informed decisions that deliver successful outcomes for your company. Incorporating data visualization in the decision-making process can improve speed, reduce inaccuracies, and enhance communication and collaboration. How will you leverage data visualization to start making better data-driven decisions today?
About the Author
Dave Ingram, Founder
Hi, I’m Dave and I am the founder of this awesome company. I go to work every day surrounded by superstars. We deliver a solution, driven by real data, that empowers companies and people to achieve their corporate and professional goals by helping them find and bridge skill gaps. The positive responses we are getting are thrilling and motivating and push me to find more companies to help.
Ready to invest in the future of your workforce?
Learn how Visual Workforce can help you discover and optimize the skills and capabilities of your people, teams, and projects.
Sign up to receive updates and announcements from Visual Workforce.