Be Data Literate
August 26, 2021

What you can learn from ‘Be Data Literate’ for your own campaign

By Tristan Mobbs

Continuing our theme focussed on helping senior leaders be data literate. In this post I share a new guest blogger’s book review.

Having enjoyed his regular content on LinkedIn, I am delighted to welcome Tristan Mobbs as our latest guest blogger. Tristan is an analyst for Connect Plus Services who writes extensively on the translator role. He describes himself as on a mission to share how to translate between analytics and business outcomes.

In this post he shares his book review of “Be Data Literate” by Jordan Morrow. When I first saw Tristan’s thoughts on reading this book, I thought it was so relevant for our audience that I immediately invited him to write a longer review for this site. Tristan is always a very open & honest commentator, so I’m delighted that he accepted. Below is his review of a book that sounds like a helpful guide for all leaders with this challenge…

The Data Literacy Skills Everyone Needs To Succeed

Data is all around us and more of it is produced than ever before, by 2025 it is estimated that 463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally. So what do we do with all that data? How do we use it effectively? And how do we interpret it?

Be Data Literate aims to guide everyone through the data literacy skills they need to be effective as the world continues to generate more and more data.

Society is at an interesting point where people under 30 have now grown up with data, smartphones and the internet alongside an older workforce who have had to adapt and learn new skills to keep pace with the digitisation of work.

How this book can help leaders with the data literacy challenge

Jordan uses this book to take us through a range of frameworks and tools to enable us to really understand data and analytics and make the best use of it. Starting with definitions of the four levels of analytics, descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive and by defining data literacy we are set up with the key areas we need to understand before putting them into practice.

Even after 10 years’ experience in analytical roles this book provided many learning opportunities and Jordan targets a broad range of people from analytical novices to data leaders. There is something for everyone to discover in Be Data Literate.

One of the key takeaways for me are the three Cs of data literacy: curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. I believe that to really understand data and make the best out of it your mindset is key, and Jordan shows this approach with the three Cs. With each framework Jordan provides it is always linked back to how they can be used to Read, Work with, Analyse and Communicate with Data. These being the four key aspects of data literacy covered in the book.

The benefit of a data-informed decision making framework

As the world becomes full of data, we need to utilise it to make decisions and within Be Data Literate we are presented with the data informed decision-making framework. This is a six-step process covering:

  • Ask – identify the question
  • Acquire – gather the data and information needed to frame the question
  • Analyse – use critical thinking skills to analyse the information collected
  • Integrate – consider the human element, and identify the real impact of the solution
  • Decide – does the benefits case add up, if so, get cracking
  • Iterate – continue to evaluate and improve as the world changes and more information is gathered

Through this framework Jordan discusses where it links in with being data literate and the use of data. Each of the tools provided really delivers something practical to use along with integrating it in a wider understanding of data and data literacy.

Learning from the practitioners (including data viz)

Alongside all of the frameworks covered, Jordan provides several real life examples and explains how each of the concepts apply to the real world. This isn’t just theory but actionable steps. I have never learned so much about how data and data visualisation helped John Snow solve the cholera outbreak in 1854.

To conclude the book Jordan provides us with some practical tips to get started or to continue your data literacy journey. One of the best tips he offers is to find something that interests you and run to it, no matter your interests there will be data surrounding that activity. Whether it is football stats to the weather or car performance there will be a topic you can get started with.

Overall this book is a very educating read for anyone interested in using data and progressing on their or their companies’ data literacy journey. From delivering definitions, to linking everything together and covering actions to take Jordan covers a whole journey in an easily digestible format.

The challenge for this book is to get into the hands of the people that need it most. As a data professional I was immediately drawn to it, but as someone who needs to understand data as part of their job, I probably wouldn’t find this book. This is where Jordan’s passion lies in bringing data literacy to the masses and I hope he succeeds.

How will you develop your skills in spreading data literacy?

Many thanks to Tristan for that engaging and informative review. I agree wholeheartedly with his final point. Perhaps, like How charts lie” by Alberto Cairo, these books for non-data leaders should be given as presents or prizes. Have you found a creative way to get such educative material in the hands of leaders who find data boring?

More broadly, I’d be interested in your experience with developing the skills you need. Our survey on data literacy revealed that many data leaders are delivering internal informal data literacy projects. If so, how are you developing your skills? Perhaps this book will help you fill that gap. But I’d also like to hear of other resources that have helped data leaders get ‘skilled up‘ for this challenge.