Data visualization is a powerful tool.
The right data visualization elegantly explains a difficult concept or even helps to prevent the spread of deadly bacterial infections.
While your enterprise isn’t likely to be responsible for stopping the next epidemic, data visualization is just as critical for your decision and data analysis. Here are three reasons why correctly applied data visualization is not just supplementary, but critical to your organization.
Reason #1: Data Visualization Amplifies Your Messaging
Pictures and visualizations of any kind have a more powerful impact on their audience than written words. This is because mentally, visuals are more strongly tied to memory. Visuals also reiterate your message in a unique way, strengthening their impact on your audience.
Data visualization empowers you to more effectively achieve your organization’s goals by tapping into these pictorial strengths. Presenting the results of your data analysis process in this more powerful and persuasive medium allows you to amplify your messaging to internal (and external) stakeholders, more easily uniting everyone behind a common organizational story.
Why It’s Critical: Amplifying your organizational story isn’t accomplished with just any form of data visualization, though. In order to be most effective, you need to utilize the correct chart or display for the situation. Choosing the wrong data visualization might overwhelm or confuse your audience – achieving the opposite of your intended result.
Reason #2: Data Visualization Provides Clearer Understanding
Not only does data visualization help communicate your organization’s story to internal and external audiences, but it also helps you understand your own story better. Better, in fact, than any other data analysis tool.
By allowing you to process a large amount of information at once, data visualization opens windows of understanding into the workings and operations of your business or government agency, either by measuring impact or providing visual insight.
Why It’s Critical: Key decision-makers in your organization aren’t always experts in every activity of the enterprise, but with the right data visualization comparisons, these leaders are able to make quicker, more informed decisions. Just as before, beware of improper comparative visualizations – if your organizational data analysis is unclear, confusing or difficult to compare, your visualizations might be doing more harm than good.
Below are two charts that illustrate (1) an example of poor data visualization, and (2) an example of how to improve that business data analysis visualization:
Reason #3: Data Visualization Aids Decision Analysis
You don’t make decisions in a vacuum. Instead, your decision analysis is fueled by the data and information you have available. When you feed accurate, unbiased data visualizations into your decision-making tools, you have the ability to make better decisions for your enterprise.
However, the essential factor is that the data should be unbiased to allow for informed decision-making. Proper data visualizations don’t distort the underlying information with deceptive displays. In addition, charts and displays should be dynamically and consistently updated with the latest information so that their decision-making utility is kept relevant.
Why It’s Critical: Biased or “spun” information in your data visualizations could be costing your organization significantly. Often, employees and low-level managers are afraid of delivering bad news to their superiors, fearing that the news might unfairly suggest poor performance – or might incur punishment. As a result, these team members present deceptive or biased data visualizations that consistently show good news, even when the deep-down facts say otherwise.
In a 2012 paper entitled “When Is Good News Really Good News?”, Thomas Schleicher found that mid-level managers often cherry-pick favorable data points or resort to vague language when reporting bad news to their superiors. Schleicher discovered that this selectivity and avoidance had significant consequences:
- Misreporting data or skewing data visualizations resulted in poor decisions by superiors who had incorrect or missing information.
- Organizations that didn’t report data accurately had overall poorer financial performance than those organizations with correct information.
- Ultimately, masking hard truths had dangerous effects on every enterprise in the study.
Data visualization is tremendously powerful, and how you utilize it in your organization or business has drastic consequences – in either a positive or negative way. Improper data visualization taints your decision-making and muddles your message, but correctly applied data visualization makes everything you do more effective: powerful messaging, clearer insights and decisions you can stand behind.
Looking to leverage the power of data visualization for your government agency or business? Click below to discover five and a half ways to drive success in your organization using data analysis and visualization.