In today’s world, we often make decisions based on data, whether it’s how much to exercise or what product to buy.
But what you may not realize is how many decisions are made based on the charts used to visualize that data — and unfortunately some of those charts aren’t very good.
The result is that bad charts can lead to bad decisions as information isn’t conveyed correctly or leads to erroneous conclusions, says Scott Berinato, author of “Good Charts.”
“Or, bad charts can lead to no decision because people become so paralyzed by the data in front of them,” he says.
Data visualization – or “dataviz” – is becoming more important as businesses seek ways to use data to grow their market share or be more competitive worldwide, Berinato explains.
“In a world governed by data, in knowledge economies where ideas are currency, visualization has emerged as our shared language,” he says.
Berinato says that charts need to be given more attention because businesses that present bad charts can lose their competitive edge to those who do a better job at designing charts. At the same time, individuals who design bad charts can lose out on promotions or important projects and customers may lose interest in a product or company that offers bad charts, he explains.
While many workers may believe they design perfectly fine charts, they may be deluding themselves. “Increasingly, when an executive sees a line chart that’s been spit out of Excel and pasted into a presentation, she wonders why it doesn’t look more like the simple, beautiful charts of her fitness-tracker app,” Berinato says.
One of the problems is that too many workers believe that the tools they use are the key to producing good charts, he says. Instead, they need to set aside the tool and spend more time thinking about the message they want to convey. “In essence, when trying to convey an idea, there aren’t any tools yet that can intuit our context,” he says.
Much of Berinato’s book emphasizes that you need to think more about what you’re trying to accomplish and use “design thinking” to craft a narrative and a visual that will help you convey your message.
“It’s far more important to know who will see this, what do they want, what do they need, what idea do I want to convey, what could I show, what should I show (read more here)