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Last month, I led a webinar for Aon eSolutions clients on the topic of “Effective Reporting and Visualization.” The webinar was part of the Third Thursday Client Webinar Series, which is an informational, education-oriented monthly virtual presentation focusing on a topic of importance to our clients in the fields of risk management, claims administration and safety management.
In recent months, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the theory and practice of effective data visualization, which was a big part of last month’s webinar. In this blog post, I’d like to give an overview of what effective data visualization can mean for risk, claims and safety managers.
Data visualization is a buzzword you may have come across already, or it may be entirely new to you. It’s an area of study that’s really taking off. Colleges and universities are granting degrees in visualization. There are people whose whole job revolves just around visualization.
It’s a very exciting topic, because when you think about the number of data points we have coming at us, whether it’s on our phones or tablet devices or laptops, we’re all inundated with information demanding our attention.
Visualization is a tool to help make that data more meaningful and to help take advantage of the fact that, as consumers of information, we are often absorbing information without even being aware of it. The practice of effective visualization can help us better grasp that information we process at a subconscious level.
So what, exactly, does effective data visualization have to offer risk, claims and safety managers? It all comes back to reporting, which is, of course, a central, vital responsibility for anyone in those roles. By understanding and practicing effective visualization, anyone who reports up, down or across an organization can become better at reporting.
Before going any further, we need to consider another concept that’s integral to effective, visualization-based reporting: that is, the concept of storytelling.
For our purposes, a story and a report are practically synonymous.
With a report, you’re trying to influence your audience to take a certain action or actions, adopt a new perspective on something, and/or consider the facts at issue in a different way. Effective visualization is founded on the principle that we comprehend ideas and information better when they’re presented to us as stories.
Now, by story, I don’t mean a novel, a short story or a children’s book; however, each of those forms are instructive in the sense that they rely on certain structures and conventions that resonate with us as readers.
Just as an author of fiction thinks constantly of the reader and how to engage her or him, we as creators of reports should always be thinking about how to engage the people we’re trying to reach, whether inside or outside our organizations. Fortunately, it’s much easier to become an effective practitioner of data visualization in your routine reporting than it is to become an accomplished novelist or writer.
A great place to start on the road to effective visualization is by considering the following four pillars of effective visualization. IBM's Noah Iliinsky, one of the leading figures in the visualization movement, has developed these pillars, which I find to be of great use in conceiving and executing on reports of all kinds.
It can be challenging to rethink existing reports or initiate new ones. By following Iliinsky’s pillars as a sort of sequential, process-oriented approach to visualization, it can be much easier to produce the kinds of reports that truly motivate your audience to take the action you want them to or begin seeing the facts in a new light.
Dec 5, 2013
| Originally posted on
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