Every living thing uses information, consciously or instinctively. A jellyfish knows to pulse in order to move, a plant knows when to flower when it’s warm, and man knows to duck under a low branch. Information gathered over millennia, stored and used and we call it evolution.
When man first painted cave walls he started storing information outside his body and since then we have learnt to store information in small figures called letters and numbers enabling us to save and retrieve large volumes of information. A book would have been ‘big data’ to a manuscript writing monk. We now take books for granted and many people see words printed on paper as ‘old fashioned’ just as a 14 century monk would feel that cave paintings were simple. In their time, cave paintings, manuscripts and books were enough to fulfil the need for knowledge of most people.
Anno 2018 we are used to e-books, vlogs, ultra HD TV, digital music in the cloud, in fact we consume more information/data than as we can mentally process.
Cave dwellers used tools to capture their data, colouring from plants and sticks to apply it to the walls. By painting multiple figures (data) they showed scenes of hunts turning data into information. Monks used ink and feather quills as tools to transfer words (data) to paper and producing manuscripts and books (information).
Anno 2018 and we use keyboards to capture and silicon to store digital data with screens and speakers to view and hear the information. What has happened over time is that man has learnt to translate data to information in more complex and larger volumes than previously and this trend will of course continue. You could call this the data and information evolution. So it is part of our instinct to collect, store and use data.
We all collect, process and use data continuously: look at a clock, see the time, is it lunchtime? yes – then go to lunch, no – then wait. In business the process is the same only worked into procedures. To help manage the large volumes of data we use computers. The words and numbers we collect are entered and digitally stored until it is processed and the resulting information used. To do this accurately we need to prepare. The diagram here below shows the questions we need to answer so that the information produced is useful.
Start with deciding what is useful to collect and what you want to do with it. If you use data, what results do you expect and how are you going to action them? If the results are only ‘Nice to know’ then you’ve wasted your time and energy. If you’re going to invest in data then make sure the resulting information is worth it. Even if the results are bad news then at least you know where to improve.
So, why is data so important? Data is part of our DNA. Data lets us do the right things – most of the time! No matter how much data we have we still have to process it and decide what to do with the resulting information. Getting the right information and getting right the actions on the information is the hard part.