Refining Insight from Data

Asterisk Intelligence has built a business around generating actionable insight from data. As simple as that may (or may not) sound, I often find myself explaining the difference between these two elements, data and insight. This distinction may seem trivial, but in actuality it is a very important aspect of our business and needs to be understood in order to fully grasp the mission of our team and the products we create.

I can think of no better analogy to explain this difference than the one given by Clive Humby in his presentation at the 2006 Association of National Advertisers Summit, where he stated that “data is the new oil.” Oil in its most crude form has little to no utility. It takes refining to harness its value; generating gasoline, plastics and countless other products. Similarly, data in its raw form has little value; it too must be refined to generate something useful, in this case insight.

Additionally, context must be included in order to refine data into actionable insight. Knowing a product of yours has 40% penetration is closer to a data element than actionable insight. Without knowing whether product penetration is increasing or decreasing, what the industry average is, or how this compares to peers, it is difficult to determine how to act upon that knowledge. Providing context with your data gives you the knowledge and confidence to take action on your insights and propel your organization to the next level.

When the next report or proposal crosses your desk, I encourage you to step back and consider whether you’re looking at data or insight. I promise you, vehicles run better on gasoline!

4 thoughts on “Refining Insight from Data

  1. Good points here Thomas. Right now the world and every industry intuitively believes that CRUDE DATA is the key, and their acquisition of more and more of it is the current push and race. The problem is that finding crude data is not enough of a plan to earn more from the work. REFINING and acting on data is the key. How is building REFINING teams, and how are the ACTORS in the factory preparing to respond and assimilate insight?

    CECL comes to mind….the powers to be push for all of the crude data that a lender can muster, and to store it for years until the REFINING processes are identified and matured. We know that acting means adjusting ALL going forward, but when and why? What will be the impact? A lot of fear and hopes based on predicting things from CRUDE data. I am not saying blow it off, but I do wish that more people would be slow walking this until the REFINING processes where ready to audit and enforce.

    What is intuitive is not all ways effective and timely to add to a business plan. Do not drowned in CRUDE VOLUMES of data, plan to build refineries – I hope some of your future blogs will talk about the mechanics of AI refineries going forward.

  2. Is this not a balancing act between the trap of always believing more analysis and refinement is necessary and acting based on the interpretation of the data at hand?

    I agree crude data alone is of limited utility outside of context, but fear that context will never be adequately understood to take a risk (i.e. action) is a mistake. Context is like a mirror: what you see in it depends on the angle from which you’re viewing it. So, context may change based on the question you’re asking of the data.

    The point of not drowning is important; and I think it’s also important to get started with low risk actions based on context as you best understand it. Then measure, audit, and adjust on the way to the future as your view into the mirror shifts.

  3. Great blog post, Thomas! I know I can fall into the trap of continuing to drill for more oil in GOLD and other systems, but not take the time to step back and refine my data to gather insight from it. This is a great reminder that to truly harness data’s value, we must refine it to turn it into insight.

    • Very true Dominic! I tend to forget to stop and really take a deep look into what data I have in front of me, and just continue to dig and dig for more raw product. In terms of the relevance of the raw data, sometimes I need to remind myself that less is actually more. We need to step back and realize the value of what we may already have in front of us. The insight step is truly what produces results when it comes to raw data and using it to your advantage to benefiting credit unions.

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