data literacy campaign
July 16, 2021

Resources to help you design and launch a data literacy campaign

By Paul Laughlin

This post is a curation of resources to help you take action on the subject discussed in our last two posts. Those posts provided two different perspectives on the need for data literacy education for leaders.

In this post, I made the case for both why it is needed and options to achieve that goal. In a counter post, guest blogger Tony Boobier made the case for leaving data literacy to the specialists. His post has sparked a great conversation on LinkedIn.

The majority of data & analytics leaders sound convinced of the need for data literacy education (pitched at an appropriate level). So, I want to help by providing some resources to help you think through how to achieve this. In this post I have curated two articles from leading leadership journals, free courses, a guidebook & a skills framework. I hope they help you both think further about this topic and start to take action…

Introducing your business to data literacy

The first article that I recommend reading is this accessible introductory post in the Harvard Business Review. In this post, marketing specialist Tim Stobierski briefly defines the term ‘data literacy‘ and then expands that into 6 required skills/concepts to understand.

I liked the simplicity of this article, which makes it suitable for sharing with directors or non-data-literate leaders. A good place to start when floating the idea and opening their eyes to the breadth of what is needed. I hope you find it helpful, at the very least it is a quick read to get you thinking about this topic before planning in detail:

Data Literacy: An Introduction for Business

Data has been one of the greatest drivers of innovation in both business and society in recent decades. Using data, organizations can make more data-driven decisions and inform business strategies with numbers instead of intuition. This often leads to increased performance, especially when compared to less data-driven firms. Access to data, however, isn’t all it takes to set a business on the path to success.

How to create a data literacy plan

The second article I have to share with you is from the equally respected MIT Sloan Management Review. In this article, Sara Brown starts by defining data literacy and why it is needed by leaders. Even here it is interesting to compare and contrast with the HBR definition. That is a reminder that there are not yet consistent standards in this subject and you need to tailor your focus to what your business needs.

This article builds on the thinking from the HBR post to guide the reader through how to create a data literacy plan. Sara outlines 6 recommendation or things to remember when shaping your plan. These are as much how you go about it as the content of the plan itself, but still useful tips to achieve engagement:

How to build data literacy in your company | MIT Sloan

Data literacy – the ability of a company’s employees to understand and work with data to the appropriate degree – can be a stepping stone or a stumbling block when it comes to building a data-driven company.

Highlight link to social justice/purpose

Depending on your organisation, it can help to clearly align data literacy with other leadership priorities. These days many leadership teams are learning more about social justice and the challenges of diversity & inclusion. So, to capture imaginations and motivate support, it can help to show how data literacy can enable this.

The Data Justice Lab, based in Cardiff University, exposes the relationship between datafiction and social injustice. As part of its often topical content, the team have produced a guidebook of data literacy tools that can help. You can download that PDF document here (with a helpful focus on privacy, data fiction & citizen rights):

Data Literacy online training resources

I mentioned in my post on potential approaches that there are advantages to live training, however there is still a place for online courses. Given the importance of this topic (and its media coverage) a number of software providers have joined the normal online learning providers. The quality is mixed, but a search on the topic of ‘data literacy‘ or ‘data fluency‘ on your favourite training site (including LinkedIn Learning) can reveal some gems.

Another development that I am glad to see is collaborations. Partnerships and projects that have been created to tackle this societal need. Often this provides a better solution & content than tech companies acting alone. One such collaboration is The Data Literacy Project founded by QlikTech and founding partners including Accenture and the CIM. They also benefit from the input of experienced data leaders like Meri Rosich (VISA) and activists like Chantilly Jaggernauth (#MAD). Well worth checking out the online courses provided here:

The Data Literacy Project – building a data-literate culture for all.

We are a global community dedicated to making the language of data understood and communicated effectively by all.

Taking a systematic view with a framework

Everything from data science to generic competencies can benefit from using a well designed framework. One grounded in both research and industry experience. So, it makes good sense before going too far to use a framework of data skills to help guide your education programme. A good place to start is the Data Skills Framework published by the ODI (Open Data Institute).

Before sharing this helpful guide, it’s worth highlighting that this takes the broad view. It covers both the technical skills needed within data teams and the data literacy skills needed by leaders & data users/readers. But I think seeing the two together is helpful. It helps you appreciate the data literacy needed for running a Business, Management roles & a Leadership focus. It also helps that community appreciate the breadth of skills needed in Foundation, Engineering and Analysis capabilities. So, it might help you make the case for investment too:

Data Skills Framework

The Data Skills Framework shows how technical data skills can be balanced with other skills to support successful data innovation The Data Skills Framework breaks down the complex landscape of data skills into the sets of skills required by different people in an organisation.

What do you still need for your data literacy campaign?

I hope those resources help you. Taking time to read through them should spark your thinking for different parts of the challenge ahead. It might help to read them in conjunction with my previous post about different potential approaches.

There is also much wisdom to share from leaders like you. What has worked for you? What have you tried and it failed? This approach is still in its infancy so evolving and adapting often. Please share your tips or recommended resources. Let’s keep learning together what really helps achieve a successful data literacy campaign.