How Curiosity Can Improve Your Data Analysis

/ Thoughtspace - General, Strategy

Curiosity and data analysis – they may seem like an unlikely pair. What is the relationship between these two, how do they fit together, or do they?  

At surface level, data analysis can seem very mathematical and scientific. Complex formulas, rigid dashboards and crunching numbers come to mind. However, applying curiosity by constantly asking questions, stretching your knowledge, and questioning boundaries is the secret to becoming a great analyst. 

Being curious in life has its advantages, but it’s important to find a balance to know when to stop exploring and start taking action. Unbound curiosity and desire to explore all options can sometimes slow down processes. This is why it’s necessary to understand and differentiate between situations when deep creative thinking should be applied and when quick actionable insights are needed.

So let’s examine this topic to see why being curious in executing data analysis is important but also some cautions along the way.

Benefits and importance of curiosity

Remember Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation? He was an android created to look and feel human, but without emotion.  He wanted to feel emotion, feeding his curiosity, striving to learn and become more human than he was. He started to achieve his goal by asking his crewmates questions to grow his understanding of humans. However, this curiosity ultimately led to annoyance of his peers and even put them in danger. What can we learn from Data?  

When presented with a task and a data source, we need to understand what the end goal is, as well as the expected outcome. There may be times where that is not clearly defined and it is up to you to analyze the data and present your findings.  Here is where curiosity comes into play – we start looking for whatever stories the data can tell.  Looking at data sets with an open mind prevents any pre-existing biases from creeping into your data analysis. This allows curiosity and data storytelling to guide the direction, and you just might find a pattern in the data that no one expected and can provide beneficial insights.

Remember that no matter what kind of data you are working with, there is always a learning to uncover. And, with a little curiosity, you can find non-obvious ways to optimize your campaigns and drive stronger results. So let the adventure begin! Stretch your mind to stretch your data and let it come alive.  

But there are dangers lurking too. 

Curiosity killed the cat

If curiosity did indeed kill the cat, at least the cat died full of knowledge and understanding…but was it worth it?

Anyone deeply entrenched in data analysis will know it is all too easy to get buried and even lost trying to extract every little piece of information from the data.  You might be thinking – why is this a bad thing? Don’t we want to glean as much insight from the data as possible?

If we start down the rabbit hole in an effort to get every angle of information, where do we stop? At some point, the results will begin to diminish and you’ll start coming to the same conclusions, just from different angles. Maybe the structure is different in the output, but the story is the same.  And what have you accomplished other than spending valuable time spinning your wheels?  Now don’t get me wrong – I enjoy a good story and mystery as much as the next person, but that rabbit hole gets pretty dark after a while.  And remember our friend Data? It’s important to keep our curiosity in check to ensure we are helping and not hindering our colleagues and brands.

Key Takeaways

In digital marketing campaigns, being able to efficiently analyze data and provide mid-flight recommendations is critical for driving the best results for our clients. Data and operations teams must work together to utilize dashboards and implement repeatable processes that enable flexible campaign analysis and optimization. If you have a channel that is unexpectedly driving superior results, understand how to read the data and adjust to build on that success. At the same time, it’s critical to understand when it is valuable to take more time and really dive into the numbers, asking those curious questions before taking action. Quarterly reviews, post-campaign analysis, planning phases – these are all times when deep analysis and questioning of the status quo is beneficial. 

Curiosity and data analysis – yes, they do go together. Applying creativity and allowing space for human intuition and insights is key to data storytelling. But to be an effective and productive data analyst, one needs to balance the art and science, keeping in mind what is and isn’t reasonable. Live for the data, explore it and search for the stories that it weaves together….but beware of that dark rabbit hole that leads nowhere.

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