How to Start Thinking Like a Data Scientist

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datascientistThe benefits of data science pervade the business community with a velocity that can take your breath away. But how might you start traveling down this road if you’re not actually a data scientist? One suggestion is you can start thinking like one! Here’s a very helpful article from the Harvard Business Review blog network, “How to Start Thinking Like a Data Scientist,” that could help.

Author Thomas C. Redman, explains an exercise he’s used for 20 years to help non-data savvy businesspeople become more data literate. Each step of the exercise illustrates an important concept in analytics — from understanding variation to visualization. He advises you to pick a problem or question from work that interests (or even bothers) you. Redman picks the example of “Meetings always seem to start late. Is that really true?”

You start solving the problem by collecting data about the question being considered. Then you try to visualize the data using a simple, hand-drawn plot. Continue by calculating some summary statistics that can give you insight into the problem. Then you ask yourself what the data reveals. At this point, Redman suggests how you might take next steps:

So where do you go from here? Are there important next steps? This example illustrates a common dichotomy. On a personal level, results pass both the ‘interesting’ and ‘important’ test. Most of us would give anything to get back an hour a day. And you may not be able to make all meetings start on time, but if the VP can, you can certainly start the meetings you control promptly.”

I appreciate any attempt to bring the principles of data science to the masses and I think this simple exercise can open minds with data literacy.


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