If You Want to Be Creative, Don’t Be Data Driven

As I write this I’m sitting in a small conference room on the second floor of an office building. The view from the windows is a paved courtyard down below roughly 25 feet from the building with some tables, chairs, and well-manicured landscaping. I can see that the sun is shining, and it looks like a lovely day. Based on that data, should I go work outdoors? Consider your answer, and we’ll come back to the question later.

If you are a designer, engineer, or in any role that creates things, you probably hear a lot about “big data” and being “data driven.” The assumption is that data equals insight and direction. But does it? Data, any data, in any amount brings with it problems that make it very dangerous to rely on alone. Let’s consider a few of them: First, data is just information and alone does not represent objective reality. Next, whatever data you have is never, ever complete, and finally, getting more data does not necessarily mean more clarity. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Humans are great at making decisions based on their context and history, but we’re pretty bad at seeing the possibilities beyond that. Here’s an example. Read the text below aloud:

As I write this I’m sitting in a small conference room on the second floor of an office building. The view from the windows is a paved courtyard down below roughly 25 feet from the building with some tables, chairs, and well-manicured landscaping. I can see that the sun is shining, and it looks like a lovely day. Based on that data, should I go work outdoors? Consider your answer, and we’ll come back to the question later.

If you are a designer, engineer, or in any role that creates things, you probably hear a lot about “big data” and being “data driven.” The assumption is that data equals insight and direction. But does it? Data, any data, in any amount brings with it problems that make it very dangerous to rely on alone. Let’s consider a few of them: First, data is just information and alone does not represent objective reality. Next, whatever data you have is never, ever complete, and finally, getting more data does not necessarily mean more clarity. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Humans are great at making decisions based on their context and history, but we’re pretty bad at seeing the possibilities beyond that. Here’s an example. Read the text below aloud:

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