Push Yourself to New Analytical Discoveries

Christopher Columbus, the 15th-century explorer we honor today for sailing to the New World on an Oct. 12 so many years ago, is credited with saying: "You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."

You may doubt whether he ever uttered such words of wisdom, believing as do I that such attribution is more likely a case of historical convenience than actual fact (kind of like Columbus Day itself). But let's take inspiration from these words nonetheless.

After all, analytics is all about discovery. And Columbus didn't shy away from exploration.

Analytics can be about taking your organization into unchartered waters. It's about gathering data and, sometimes as a result, disproving commonly held beliefs. It's about lobbying top executives, gaining their trust, and turning them into beneficiaries of the analytics mission. Columbus had his King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Who are your champions?

The parallels between Columbus and the modern-day analytics professional are abundant. And so, I ask, do you have the courage to lose sight of the shore?

You might encounter the need for such fortitude in so many different ways, including these top-of-head examples.

  • Seeking new data sources, external to your organization, to test your analytical prowess
  • Plunging into the unknowns of predictive analytics, rather than sticking with the tried-and-true basic business intelligence reporting
  • Exploring multiple modeling techniques and not turning automatically to your go-to favorite
  • Broaching the topic of analytics with business unit heads not known for their acceptance of data-driven decision making
  • Advocating change and leading the efforts to create an analytical culture
  • Committing to your career development by pursuing an advanced analytics degree

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. You might be having great success as an analytics professional, discovering trends and patterns and delivering business insight for competitive decision making. But are you pushing yourself enough? What might you be leaving unexplored?

I'd love to hear how you've "left the shore." Let's share our experiences below.

— Beth Schultz, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn pageFriend me on Facebook, Editor in Chief, AllAnalytics.com

Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

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Push Yourself to New Analytical Discoveries

Take inspiration from Christopher Columbus as you pursue your analytical journeys.

Re: Push Yourself
  • 10/16/2014 9:54:26 AM

True.  But mistakes that lead to discovery are only made by people who are willing to do hard things (loose site of the shore) - which easier to do with a sail or a motor (technological advance) than an oar or paddle.

Re: Push Yourself
  • 10/16/2014 8:43:44 AM

Good points. Most interesting stuff is discoverd by leaving the shore. But a significant portion of discovery is actually by mistake. Columbus was looking for Inda and found the Carribean  Searching in one diredtion will often lead us in a new direction. Sometime it works out well, and sometimes not.

Re: Wanted: Seasoned sailors with a spirit of adventure
  • 10/15/2014 10:20:23 AM

@Seth Those are some great ways of promoting analytics. If you have your co-workers' support it is more likely that they will support you when the time comes. Changing mindsets of people who are used to doing things in a certain way is always difficult. But peer pressure and sound ideas could indeed make them look at things more positively.

Re: Push Yourself
  • 10/14/2014 7:46:31 AM

@Tom Sattler. I agree with your dismissal of the claim that everything that can be achieved with serious effort  has been done. Let's not forget the quote attributed -- mistakenly? -- to the patent commissioner in 1899 that everything that can be invented has been invented.

Push Yourself
  • 10/13/2014 8:52:26 PM

Beth - Interesting.  Earlier today I was reading an excerpt and article on a the book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build Your Future.

In the article a trichotomy, dividing gaols in to:

1 those that are easily attained with minimal effort

2 those that can only be attained with serious effort (and)

3 those that can not be satisfied, not matter how much effort

One had posited that only the easy and the impossible still exist, all those that can be attained with serious effort already had been attained.  Which given advances in technology and advances in methods and modeling, is untrue - the point of your post

I think it is greatly encouraging to find that the significant, and most rewarding, accomplishments are from those goals that can only be attained with serious effort (loosing site of the shore).

Re: Wanted: Seasoned sailors with a spirit of adventure
  • 10/13/2014 8:15:14 PM

I find the best ways to promote analytics is to just go ahead and do a project or proof of concept to show management that it does work and can save money.   Suggestions tend to get shot down when it is just an abstract idea.  Also, it's great to get feedback from your co-workers.  It improves any concept and also brands it as your idea in case you have those that co-op projects as their own. 

Wanted: Seasoned sailors with a spirit of adventure
  • 10/13/2014 4:33:19 PM

@Beth, this was timely. I just wrote a piece on considering data from the IoT, and we're having a similar discussion about the balance between trusting the shore versus throwing yourself at the mercy of the ocean waves.

I find that pushing to extend the "box" is always needed in enterprises, because the box was defined at a prior point in time, while the world outside has changed the nature of supply and demand. In some organizations, I have seen different roles be created to foster some healthy tension and conflict so that new things are not oppressed by the mind-set that is needed for stable operations.