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Digestible Insights

Now the data is telling a different story. Things have changed. It is a data-driven culture. Business leaders have access to previously elusive information through data analytics and predictive modeling.

“I eat my own dog food.” That’s how Bill Shander describes his method of teaching a data mindset. “I try to be very clear and succinct and distraction-free in my own presentation to students.” This is what Bill teaches so that data evangelists can effectively use their presentations. Like Bill, they should be clear, succinct, and distraction-free.

Shander, founder of Beehive Media works with some of the world’s most recognizable names, including the World Bank, the United Nations, Starbucks, PwC, MIT, and many more. But today, Bill spends much of his time answering to a different calling—education. He teaches classes on LinkedIn, Skillshare, the University of Vermont, and workshops worldwide. His courses include data literacy, communication, organizing your ideas, data storytelling, data visualization, and presentation skills. The knowledge he shares is used in everything from simple surveys to complex data projects. And he also stresses the importance of data storytelling in writing proposals and assembling presentations.

Humans have spent thousands of years teaching each other things via storytelling. “We require stories from each other. We’ve evolved this way.” Humans are likelier to remember things when conveyed in story form instead of a collection of related facts.

Bill is an advocate of using visuals when telling your data story. Again, it comes down to what people remember. He explains that as much as half the brain is devoted to processing what is coming in through sight. The eyes contain about 70% of the body’s receptors. This makes vision the most critical interface humans have with the world.

Often the answer a question generates hinges on how it is asked. Bill cautions his students to ensure they don’t insert their own biases into their data gathering. They overcome this by developing data literacy. We’ve all heard leadership and others say that the data is lying or that the research was biased. Bill combats this mistrust of data by stressing the importance of understanding data and how it is collected.

“You’re going to ask the right questions,” says Bill. “You’re going to do your best to get assumptions and biases out of your data collection, analytics, and other processes, so you’re less likely to make mistakes, but it does require data literacy on everyone’s part to recognize it.” What is the next horizon for Bill Shander? He says it is data democratization. Data for everybody.

“More and more of this data work should be done by you,” he says, “and by the way, there will be more tools to really simplify and automate the process. The democratization of data is happening, and it’s happening fast. It’s not going to be as daunting a task as that may sound like.”

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