Microsoft Design
Published in

Microsoft Design

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

3 ideas that will completely change how you think about data

There is no inherent value in any piece of data because all information is meaningless in itself. Why? Because information doesn’t tell you what to do.
— Beau Lotto

Data is not reality

All data is missing something

  • A female
  • 31 years old
  • Single
  • Outspoken
  • Smart
  • A Philosophy major
  • Is deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice
  • As a student, participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
  1. Linda is a bank teller
  2. Linda is a bank teller also active in woman’s rights

More data, less clarity?

  • a book of matches
  • a box of thumbtacks
  • a book of matches
  • a box
  • thumbtacks

1. Experiment with the recipe

From my experience, there’s one piece I’ve left out of this discussion that makes all the data we have, and will continue to collect, useful. That piece is you and your creativity.

  • Experimentation leaves many possibilities open
  • Experimenters expect, and even celebrate, failure and uncertainty
  • Experimentation keeps the process open to change and adaptable to discoveries

2. Question everything

  • What would happen if I removed an item from the list, does that help me in any way?
  • What if I turned everything upside down, does that make a difference?
  • What would I see if I take all the matchsticks out of the matchbook?
  • What if I took the thumbtacks out of the box?
  • What if I tried to stick everything to the wall with the tacks?

3. Think inclusively

Being creative in a data-rich world

  • Acknowledge that we, and those we work with, bring own history to any given set of data, biasing our judgement.
  • Experiment, explore and even play with the data through questions.
  • Bring diverse points of view and unique perspectives to problems, getting as many “adjacent possibles” as we can.

So next time you’re faced with a “data-driven” scenario do this: instead of looking for the answers the data provides, look for the questions it generates.