Find me a person that doesn’t want to be more influential.
But influence can take many forms. I recently came across what feels like a landmark HBR article, titled Understanding “People” People. The article speaks to four interpersonal dimensions that give someone persuasive power. One dimension in particular caught my eye: Relational Creativity.
Relational Creativity was defined by HBR as the ability to “forge connections with groups of people through visual and verbal imagery,” and often manifests in people who seem to have an “unerring sense of what will pull [consumers] in.”
The article went on to explain that this type of influence is abundant in advertising, but “most of us don’t have much occasion to interact with people who stand out in this dimension.”
I want to pause here. This article was published in 2004. Creative influence is no longer concentrated in advertising agencies. Today many types of companies are looking for ways to bring creative influence inside their own walls.
Granted, I’m biased because I’m a strategist that has spent many years inside ad agencies, but I deeply believe in marketing’s ability to change behavior through visual and verbal imagery. I’ve also been tracking the growing number of in-house creative departments and acquisitions of management consultant firms seeing to buy up digital design shops. In short, advertising minds are dispersing from the agency world into a wide array of companies. Why?
Demand for Creative Influence is Everywhere
Demand for change management continues to steadily increase. In Atlanta, Local is a unique consultancy that specializes in helping companies drive change through customer-grade marketing campaigns. The only twist is that their consultants are building campaigns for HR departments, C-suite executives and their employees, rather than consumers.
Change management is just one of many examples where companies may need creative influencers.
Captivating data visualizations — just like captivating creative campaigns— persuade; they help build alliances with other stakeholders; they unearth patterns and direction amidst complexity.
And that’s ultimately why we’re here today: to talk about the data visualizations and their growing impact on corporate decision-making.
Brinig Relational Creativity Inside Companies
Many of us naturally associate coding with STEM skill sets, right brain-thinking and mathematical answers. Conversely, many of us naturally associate advertising with the arts, left-brain thinking and emotional drivers.
The ability to develop mind-bending data visualization requires both creativity and STEM-leaning skill sets.
I believe that’s why I’m so drawn to the discipline.
Developing a affective visualization requires a systematic but also open-minded mindset. One has to thoroughly explore the dataset and possible patterns before landing on a final visualization approach.
Then there’s the art of actually designing the final visualizations — deciding what to highlight, what supporting charts provide adequate context, writing insights and organizing the series of visualizations to draw the audience toward a specific point of view. In essence, the last part is about illustrating a graphical storyline.
Business analysts need to know the numbers, sure, but I strongly believe tomorrow’s most influential business analysts will be thinking more and more like data journalists and tapping into relational creativity.
Data Visualizations are to internal stakeholders what creative campaigns are to consumers
I am currently studying Data Science and Analytics at Georgia Tech. The coursework leans heavily into the technical side of tools including Python from Pandas to NumPy, mySQL, MongoDB, HTML, Tableau, etc.
As I think about the forces of persuasion, I am more and more convinced that data visualizations are an analyst’s way of campaigning for new ideas. Even if you don’t work in a “creative field,” visuals are a proven shortcut to make a point that hits audience members in the gut. Why? Visuals put information in a form that humans can digest easily. They make information feel in reach and provide the necessary aid to make confident decisions.
Where to dive in
Have I made you a data viz fan yet? Hopefully the answer is yes. If you’re interested in diving in, here are a few go-to tools and newsfeeds:
Looker — Why them: Now under Google, they continue to stand by their mission: To inspire everyone to embrace their curiosity, dig deeper and keep asking questions
Graphical detail — Why them: The Economist’s sharp perspective on issues mixed with visual storytelling
Tableau blog — Why them: They’re seen as the “grandmaster of enterprise data visualizations” by many in the field, and are an ideal solution for all types of Business Intelligence needs. (For those interested: I highly recommend NYU’s Data Visualization course – they do an exceptional job at teaching Tableau.)
IBM Designing for Data Visualizations — Why: Because IBM has been a pioneer of design thinking and visual influence since always
FiveThirtyEight — Why them: For blending culture and math in entertaining, unexpected ways