Drinking from the Fire Hose

People in my generation were there for the real transformation to the information age. I’m not talking about the creation of the supercomputer, or the launch of the PC, or the invention of the internet. I’m talking about the 1990s, when every person, not just the IT department, suddenly had a user-friendly spreadsheet and database program at their disposal. I mean everybody.

I think it was 1991 when I wrote my first Lotus macro, 1993 when I learned how to strip “numbers and quoted text” out of a mainframe report so I could build a better-formatted report in Lotus Symphony, and 1995 when I built my first Access database. These experiences shaped a big portion of my work life and still do so today.

All of this data manipulation and presentation is even easier now, and that’s part of the problem. Today, it’s a whole lot simpler to report data than it is to gain insight from that data. Frank and Magnone see this as a problem and set about to explain how to optimize the progression of moving from data, to numbers, to information, then to insight. Why? Because, the authors say,

Insight leads to informed action.

Their prescription for gaining insight from data is a set of Seven Questions. You can see them highlighted in yellow in my reference sheet, along with some other key bits of information from the book. These are great guidelines and I’m planning on incorporating them into a current project. Ideally, I’ll incorporate these Seven Questions, or a derivative of them, subconsciously, in everything I do.

I fall into both the distraction trap and the information overload trap pretty easily. I’m planning on changing this in 2012 in my efforts to become a more productive problem solver. I think I’ll be referring back to this book and my cheat sheet a lot over the next twelve months. Check out some related posts here:

Like I said, it’s a hot button issue for me.