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When Life Gives You Data, Make Information

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BY BREWSTER KNOWLTON

Credit unions are living in the age of data overload, but all that data availability means nothing if you can’t turn it into useful information. These simple steps will help your CU practically apply data so you can transform your organization into a data-driven culture.

For starters, yes, the title of this article is a terrible play on “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Bad jokes aside, I hear too frequently how organizations need more and more data. I’m a data guy – I’m all about data. But there is a subtle difference between having more data and having more information.

Here is one of my favorite quotes about data:

“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” – W. Edwards Deming

Opinions are the foundation of subjectivity, and fundamentally subjectivity is devoid of data as support. Decisions driven by opinions without data are counter to everything The Knowlton Group (and I personally) stand for. Our primary mission is to enable every organization to become data-driven.

But as much as I like Deming’s quote, I also love this quote from a 2015 Forbes article:

“Without an opinion, you’re just another person with data.” – Milo Jones and Philippe Silberzahn

The converse of Deming’s quote is equally accurate. Having data without an opinion or interpretation of that data is as bad as forming opinions without any data to back you up. With all of this data out there, it is foolish to believe that any of it will tell us what we need to do. All data requires interpretation and opinions to be formed before it can be practically applied.

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