Analytics Needs A "Creative" Makeover

Analytics and creativity are seldom used in the same sentence. The natural instinct is to delineate the two as left-brain and right-brain pursuits. Analytics and creative teams speak different languages, use different tools, and find inspiration in different places.

Customer Intelligence (CI) professionals are usually closer to the world of analytics. They capture, manage, analyze, and apply heaps of customer data using advanced analytical tools and techniques. But in order for them to step out of a perceived geeky image, CI professionals should think about how to add a dash of creativity into their roles.

Analytics made its way to the creative world especially with various testing tools, but has enough creativity made its way into analytical projects? How can analysts and CI pros add some creativity?

  • Ask the same questions, differently. Arriving at the hypothesis or questions to pursue when analyzing data can be an output of a creative brainstorm. Framing the question to ask of the data is as important as the analysis itself.
  • Summarize data in creative ways. New types of data are pushing the limits of what traditional data mining and analytical tools can do. This requires creative ways of uncovering relationships between seemingly unrelated entities.
  • Make the data sing. Data visualization as both a data-mining tool as well as a presentation method is fast becoming popular to communicate complex trends and results into a digestible format, especially when the audience is not analytically inclined.

In our conversations with CI professionals, they often mention the dearth of analytical talent as a stumbling block to implementing best practices. I plan to write research next quarter about how universities and organizations are investing in building much-needed analytical talent to nurture future CI professionals, where I intend to probe into the intersection of analytics and creativity.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments around this topic.



Analytics in Novel Situations

Thanks for the post. I always find the intersection between analytics and new endeavors to be a fertile ground for creativity. Whether it's emerging media or simply a new campaign approach, the lack of a well-defined path pushed me to be more resourceful in my approach.

Thanks Rob there is an

Thanks Rob there is an opportunity to foster creativity in analytical pursuits especially in areas where precedents are hard to come by. The extent of the opportunity varies by the skill of the analyst, the tools he/she has access to and the audience of the results of the analysis.

Creativity Rules Over Analytics

Advanced analytical skills are powerful tools, but they are secondary to and dependent upon a creative mind DIRECTING them (just as a cannon is useless unless aimed properly).

Advances in computing power and software ease of use have made ANALYTICS much easier to conduct, but they do not aide the underlying need for direction. (Almost anyone can use SPSS windows pull-down menus to run regression on a data file -- but are the data appropriate? Is regression the best technique?)

Better analytics and deeper insights will result from time invested BEFORE the data is collected, to completely understand the issues at hand. What are we trying to learn? What do we already know? What more do we need to measure? What type of research/analysis will be required? Etc. None of these questions requires an advanced understanding of statistics -- they require a creative mind that can disregard what is "known" (assumed, and perhaps incorrect) and approach the problem from a new perspective.

The creative spark can again ignite the analytics process during the review of the data. What NEW insights can be found? What assumptions were invalidated? How can the data be turned on its head, to provide a fresh perspective?

Everything is a nail if our only tool is a hammer. It takes creativity to choose the tool(s) that best fit the problem, and to uncover the Venus de Milo hidden within the block of stone.

I agree John, the question

I agree John, the question then becomes how these hybrid skills are built within customer intelligence teams. If the hybrid skills don't exist, then there is a danger of something getting lost in translation between the person who initiates the creative analytical process and the person who implements the analytical task.

Chicken or Egg?

True. You cannot succeed on just creativity (without the skills to execute your vision) nor on just technical know-how (without understanding where/how to apply your skills).

Curiosity is a powerful skill, which can help see old problems in a new light. Often the best insights come from sharing and discussing problems/data with others, and being forced to explain/defend what we THINK we see/know.

A simple question -- "What about...?" -- can redefine the discussion and force an entire new line of thought.

Can this these steps come from automation?

Great post!

Coming from the Account side of the business, I think it's always helpful to when researchers put the analytics in a visual format. In graph and chart forms, analytics can provide a quick glance at trends in the market which is a great place to start when redesigning a marketing strategy.

Full disclosure, I'm an advertising graduate student, but I also work as a Brand Evangelist for MutualMind. Our software does a lot of the legwork as far as providing graphs and charts that make social media trends easy to spot. You can see some examples here:

I'm just curious, what are your thoughts when it comes to allowing software to handle this part of the creativity and analytic representation?

Thanks Danielle. I believe

Thanks Danielle. I believe any visualization software should still have the flexibility not only to present data findings in creative ways, but also the ability to explore data even before designing the actual presentation layer.

Thanks for the feedback!

It sounds like we're on the right track. I appreciate your time and opinion.

Layered Creativity!

Wonderful article Srividya!

I do believe that creative is critical for analytics to take shape in an organization. I see it as critical at 3 stages: 1) Building the analysis/model/scorecard-at this stage the need is for creativity about imagining customer behavior. The more creatively one imagines behavior the more impact it will have on the analyst's hypothesis & therefore the derived variables that she creates. 2) In this stage Creativity is about how she should present & visualize her findings. For years advertising agencies have found really creative ways of presenting their "Central ideas". Analysts need to learn from that & make compelling presentations. This almost needs the equivalent of having "Phd's with a personality" in your analyst team!! 3) And finally Analytics folk need to be creative about bringing the result of their analytics closer to the decision making process. The more creatively you embed analytics into the customer path, the more you will see impact!

So creativity is critical, but in my view in multiple dimensions!

So an analyst may suggest that you "fire your customers" as a central idea-read more about this here:

Thanks for weighing in Ajay.

Thanks for weighing in Ajay. I agree with your perspective about more 'upstream' creativity in hypothesis-building and variable creation.

I think part of creativity is

I think part of creativity is stepping back and working with the client to ask meaningful questions of the data. That will help define not only the right statistical methodologies for answering the question, but also the right visualization. And the question can't be "nice to know." It should actually be related to a pending business decision, like the interaction for sales associates on the floor as they address various customer segments. For business executives, that visualization can be crucial to capturing their understanding and imaginations, and empowering them to make a decision. And there's always the tension between trying to take truly complex data and winnow down into something that can be quickly grasped. I still refer to some of the classic work by Edward Tufte when I'm thinking about how to get complex points across.

Thanks for sharing your

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cheryl. Edward Tufte's work is inspirational indeed!