There is a special beauty in the painstaking process of painting pottery. 

I adore this hobby, and all of the concentration and attention to detail it requires. 

Coming from Iran, I have a love of intricate Persian patterns that make use of vivid colours. It’s art with the texture of human experience, illuminating the humble and the commonplace, exalting the royal and the divine. From early times, although art was natural and taken for granted, the Persians consciously placed a high value on beauty.

Iranian pottery has a long and brilliant history. Due to the special geographical position of the country, being at the crossroads of ancient civilizations and on important caravan routes, almost every part of Iran was, at times, involved in pottery making.

My life’s journey has taken me to live now in another place of beauty, New Zealand.

Lapita pottery (named after a site in New Caledonia) is one of the ways we can trace the emergence of Polynesians in the Pacific. The motifs of Māori art in New Zealand clearly resemble the decoration on Lapita pottery.

As a New Zealander from Persia, I see and feel symmetry between the artistic patterns of my place of birth, with the beautiful Polynesian art of my adopted homeland. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no means an artist, but as a method of relaxation and refocus, I love the sense of achievement, painting these creations brings. 

The time, commitment and inspiration needed to perfect this artistic style remind me so much of what it takes to run a successful business.

Running a Successful Business is Deeply Artistic

Where Science is the system of acquiring knowledge, art is the application of knowledge. Art can be defined as requiring a skill to conduct any human activity and as we are well aware, running a business involves a multitude of skills.

Albert Einstein said, “If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research.” Companies know that big data and analytics are beneficial to their business. The chaos of data at our fingertips needs analysing for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.

Business is an on-going cycle of art and science. Analysing data that influences the imagination to create something new and then experimenting with the idea to see how and if it works in the market. It goes on with gathering information, creating from it and experimenting with it, a never-ending balance of art and science.

A quick Google search seems to reveal if you manage People, Process, and Technology you’ve got everything covered. That’s simply not the case. Data is separate and distinct from the things it describes — namely people, processes, and technologies — and organisations must separately and intentionally manage it.

Why Our People Matter

The overwhelming amount of data available in large organisations makes it tempting to think it can answer all questions and solve all problems. It can’t. 

What it can do, however, is help point out the best path forward, provided you ask the right questions. This step starts with convening the right people around the table. To minimise churn down the road, it’s important to ensure that stakeholders align on the business problem and that relevant data sets are easily available.

In practice, being data-centric involves four facets:

  • People – How talent, training, compensation, and tenure impact the way a company uses and gets value from data.
  • Platforms – Investing in and leveraging the right tools to engage audiences, develop insights and facilitate measurement, analytics and reporting.
  • Partners – Agency experts, data suppliers, and other service providers.
  • Processes – A company’s organisational structure must support data compilation, management, sharing, and use.

Becoming data-centric isn’t an option anymore. Using internal and external sources of data is going to become increasingly vital, and not getting on this big data bandwagon is going to stop your business moving forward. Creating a long-term strategy for harnessing big data is a must.

Technology is still all about the people

Many years of experience with technology and data has taught me that getting this right is about the team. Your people drive the decisions you make based on the data you collect and untimely own the success it generates. 

Technology brings data and visualisation, which are required for our decision making. Great data feeds good decision-making that is done by people, not technology. 

Too many organisations I have worked with have invested in the technology heavily and then expected the data to interpret itself and decide a course of action. This is when a holistic approach is needed and people are brought on board and handed ownership. The process for this action is:

  • Identify all people: Ensure that you are considering the entire set of people who are affected by your problem and its possible solutions. It is easy to overlook people who have to deploy and support your solution, so never forget them!
  • Look at the whole person: Employing empathy, consider not just what you know, but what you might not know. 
  • Trust as a goal: What do you need to do to develop long-lasting, trusting relationship with the people who are asking you to solve their problems?

Ensure that all of your team members develop a deep understanding of these three things: empathy, trust, and emotional intelligence. The ability to empathise, to develop a trusting relationship and to know how to act in stressful situations, is foundational to eliciting honest requirements from real people.

Reporting & Visualisation

Report visualisation is the process of presenting report formats that represent data and information in a pictorial or graphical format that helps the recipient to understand the significance of the content more easily than if presented in a traditional report format.

A key role of management is to support effective decision making by presenting relevant, timely and accurate information in a manner that enables informed dialogue and decision-making. For effective decisions to be taken, the information presented must focus on the right key performance indicators that drive true business performance. Making decisions based on these drivers should result in focusing performance around the delivery of the business strategy.

This in itself is a creation with artistic merit. If I cannot capture both the essence of the data and the attention of the reader and decision-maker, then mistake are made that affect the business. 

Graphical representations of data communicate patterns, trends, and outliers far more quickly than tables of numbers and text. With visualisation, users can spot issues and problems needing attention at a glance and take appropriate action. In text-based reports and spreadsheets, the trends and issues remain hidden among dizzying arrays of numbers and text. Because of its power to communicate, data visualisation is becoming more pervasive in business environments.

Faster decision-making is highly valuable to enterprises, and slowed decision-making can often be responsible for inefficiencies and even direct losses. With the ability to make quicker decisions, companies can take timeous action on trends, consistently outstrip competitors, avert losses, and capitalise on unexpected market conditions. 

Data visualisation is a fast, useful communication tool that can bring employees, decision-makers, and other parties together on information and data in a much faster and sure way than previous methods such as reports and spreadsheets.

Excellent Data visualisation has three key components:

1. Patterns

It is human nature to see patterns in the world around us – whether it’s a pattern in the weather, the stock market, or in fashion on the street. We do it because patterns help us to predict what might happen next, and the ability to make predictions and prepare for the future is key to our species’ survival.

Good data analysis splices the data in many ways, looking for patterns that emerge over time, across space, or between categories. Exploring the data in this way allows significant patterns to emerge – these patterns tell a story about how the world works or is changing.

2. Storytelling  

Data visualisation is used to communicate something to an audience, whether that’s a point of view, a case for change, or simply new information. Few forms of communication are as compelling as narrative, and that is why storytelling is an integral part.

Most often, data represents people, places, and objects. Despite this, in its raw form, data remains a meaningless jumble of numbers to most people. Data visualisation must make the emotional, social, and cultural connections between data and real life.

To that end, the visualisation needs to include information about the who, what, when, where, and how of your data. To be meaningful to your audience, this information needs to be considered from their point of view. The terms you use, and the concepts you refer to should be familiar to your audience.  

3. Relationships 

A ‘relationship’ in data is most often a correlation, in other words, does something go up as another thing goes down? Quality analysis is the first step towards great data visualisation — it isn’t until we explore data that we discover what it can tell us.  From there, we need to interpret the story for others.

Clear and effective communication is proved to be highly relevant to companies as it can measurably improve productivity and increase the effectiveness of operations. 

Additionally, clear communication with employees can enhance levels of job satisfaction and motivation, lowering levels of absenteeism, and employee turnover rates. For this reason, when leveraging data visualisation, it can be of benefit to share regular and relevant data insights with not only decision-makers but employees as well.

The Importance of Focus

As I mentioned earlier, my hobby requires me to keep careful concentration on what is sometimes a very small piece of a bigger picture or artwork. It’s like a large jigsaw in that way. 

This induced focus has made me more careful to get things right as do-overs are difficult. What I have found, however, is this intensity in relaxing is that I am constantly being reassured that even if I make a mistake, I did the best I could after investing in gaining all the knowledge I needed, before the brush touched the clay.

My approach to helping businesses is the same. I gather all the data I need before I can assess what changes are required. However, I always start with the people. They are the heartbeat of any organisation and when they are given ownership of the decision-making process that any data analysis demands, then success however painstaking is always rewarded.