We use metaphor as a common language to convey big ideas in easier ways. One of the simplest ones used these days is “data-driven,” but its simplicity may actually be a problem in this case. In an article for CIO magazine, Rohan Light discusses the problems of “data-driven” and offers an alternative metaphor to consider.
Light’s main issue with “data-driven” is that it sounds good—“data delivers us to the best course of action”—but describing it in such simple language makes it too easy to forget how hard it is to actually achieve. Too many people think that having any data at all is evidence that they are data-driven, but collecting data is the easiest part of being data-driven. The hard part is knowing which data is actually relevant to the challenge at hand, and in fact, many people are not good at analyzing and interpreting data. If people with no head for data analysis claim to be data-driven, that is a bad thing, because they have no idea if they are being taxied to the right place.
As such, Light prefers to use water as a metaphor to frame data governance strategy:
A useful place to start is to substitute the word ‘data’ for ‘water’. Data is abstract and ephemeral, while water is concrete and a persistent presence in our lives. We might not care about data, but we definitely care about water. Swapping data for water helps us question some of the terms that have crept into our vocabulary. What is “big water?” Do we want our organizations to be “water-driven?” How do we really feel about “monetizing our water assets?”
Do we want our water to flow freely and irrigate our organizational networks, or to sit stagnant in ponds? If you’ve ever drank stagnant water, you know what the answer is. The data-water analogy also helps us get our heads around the massive scale of our data world.
That probably sounds a bit peculiar at first, or it did to me at least. But it is certainly useful as a starting point, for gut-testing long-held data assumptions. And Light actually goes deeper with the water metaphor from there. If you dare to follow him down the rabbit (sink?) hole, you can view the original article here: https://www.cio.com/article/3248592/governance/choosing-a-smarter-metaphor-for-your-data-governance-strategy.html