6 Important Skills for Making Sense of Data

Emily James

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Sophie Grieve-Williams

    Making sense of data isn’t the easiest thing in the world, which is why there are numerous stakeholders in many industries who hire insight professionals to do it for them. Insight teams are formed to gather and interpret data, help create effective data strategies, make sense of data and communicate it in a way that stakeholders will immediately understand and use to inform a myriad of decisions.

    Insight teams are recruited because of their great skills in data generation and analytics, of which there are a great many. But there are six skills in particular that are crucial to making sense of data:

    1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

    The skills of critical thinking and problem solving are key for seeking accurate insights from relevant data in all stages of market research, from data generation to analysis and reporting. Critical thinking is an essential skill in all roles in life, but in market research, it helps insight experts wade through a myriad of problems that crop up whenever creating a new unique research experience. It sparks a need to ask questions, take into account all contexts available and make sure that each decision only aids the generation of high-quality data.

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    Making sense of data is vital to the success of a business. Without sensible data, there cannot be a data strategy or strong data-fuelled decisions.

    Critical thinking can help insight experts appropriately frame and reframe questions on the fly during live research tasks when respondents need a bit more prodding to get the right data out of them, and this skill also allows us to understand how it relates to the next steps for the business. 

    Critical thinking and practised problem-solving enables an understanding of all the different interpretations to answers given within research. See all angles of a problem, consider the sources and their biases and ask all questions possible to truly see the root of any issue. 

    2. Understanding Context

    This is crucial to understanding the true meaning behind interpretations as well as the impact they will have in decisions across the stakeholder business. Insight experts, for as much as they are able, must endeavour to keep the relevant contexts in mind when dealing with all parts of the research experience. 

    For the research design, it is important to keep in mind the business objectives as well as the research objectives, and also the current goings on within the organisation. This will help all involved to design a truly impactful research project that generates the best data possible. For stakeholders, understanding the contexts in which the research respondents live their lives can provide a whole world of difference between one interpretation of the data and another. 

    While understanding the wider business, research and life contexts might not seem like a “skill”, keeping them at the forefront of your mind while studying data is a crucial skill that can only be developed through practice. 

    3. Technical Data Analysis Skills

    One of the more obvious skills needed for making sense of data is data analysis. There are many skills contained within data analysis to do with looking at data, interpreting it, identifying and removing the irrelevant data, and so much more, but each of them can be caught under the umbrella of ‘data analysis skills’. Researchers would not be researchers without the skills to fully analyse quantitative and qualitative data.

    There are different obvious skills needed for quantitative data analysis and qualitative data analysis. With qualitative data analysis, a good knowledge of words and a strong sense of empathy can come in very handy, as there are multiple interpretations to be gleaned from video submissions or simply word descriptions depending on how you look at it and what factors you take into account each time. 

    With quantitative data analysis, a strong affinity for statistical analytics and pattern-spotting is key for this particular skill - numbers can only tell us so much, but there are many formulas out there for insight experts to use to obtain the most insights from the data possible. 

    4. Multiple Tools and Platforms

    Being versatile and switching naturally between platforms and tools is crucial - insight experts need to be able to use multiple software programmes to generate, analyse and collate data to turn into insights. Data comes from many sources, so understanding which sources are the most relevant will help insight experts understand what tools will serve their needs well. 

    As well as data having many sources, there are many tools and platforms out there to choose from in order to analyse and communicate data too. Choosing the right ones for your research stack and then learning how they integrate with each other will be crucial to getting the most out of your data. For some platforms and tools, an extra skill in programming might be handy depending on how you like to script surveys and download analytics. 

    5. Creative Thinking and Storytelling

    Not too dissimilar to critical thinking, creative thinking encourages us to think outside of the box and understand that there may be multiple interpretations to the same story. Speaking of stories, storytelling is another soft skills that is quickly becoming incredibly sought after in the insights industry and in insight teams across all industries. 

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    Critical thinking, data analysis, and storytelling are three of six crucial skills needed to truly make sense of data.

    This is because stakeholders are no longer taking the time to read through traditional written reports, no longer sifting through graphs, charts and tables to discover insights for themselves. While these reports will always be valuable, stakeholders do not have the time nor inclination to pay proper attention to them - thus we must find new ways of engaging them in insights and storytelling and thinking of creative ways to present data to capture their attention is necessary now more than ever. 

    6. Continuous Learning

    This is the last skill I would like to mention, but it is by no means the least out of all those mentioned in this blog. In fact, I would argue the opposite, that it is the most important skill we could take on no matter what role we are or what industry we’re in. 

    Trends, fads, innovations, whatever you want to call them, there will always be new skills, new technologies, and new ways of generating insights with each step forward in the industry. Keeping up to date and learning when to recognise which ones are worth paying attention to, and which ones are worth investing in as they are here to stay will come in handy when levelling up an insight expert’s skills. 

    Camp InsightHub

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