Do you enjoy wasting time? I surely don’t and I do not have patience engaging in activities that do. Unfortunately, over the past few months I did witness several completely useless discussions about tools and their specific features and functions. So much wasted time and energy! While everybody focused on boasting & bitching, core issues were completely ignored. This is so wrong! But let’s back up for a second…
Tools, tools, tools
Back in February, my favorite camera manufacturer released a groundbreaking piece of equipment. The discussion forums and relevant blogs were going crazy for a while. People expressed their enthusiasm for the new features. However, the general tone in the discussion forums quickly turned sour. Photographers were lashing out at each other. It got really stupid (“Do you know how to count megapixels!”) and the discussions were far removed from the subject that should be at the core: photography. Photography is about taking great photos that touch people. It’s not about pixel peeping. One person made an especially smart comment: “Finally. This is the camera that provides me with endless freedom. All other cameras in the market have limited my creativity so far.” Oh well…..I am sure Ansel Adam would hold his belly laughing on the floor. His creativity was truly limited by his huge camera and the heavy stacks of film plates…..NOT!
There is a similar issue in business analytics. We sometimes spend too much time thinking and talking about the tools. Back in my Big 5 days, I sat with a client who was very dissatisfied with his BI tools from a certain vendor. He claimed that the lack of gauge charts amongst two other things explained the low user adoption. Guess what – the company bought a different tool but the dashboards still sucked. Why? They thought the tool would provide a miracle fix. All their discussions were focused on the tools and not the business process. I am still 100% sure that they could have built a highly valuable solution with their old software. Granted, it did not look sexy. But it was highly functional. Time for a reality check: High-pixelated garbage is still worse than a low-resolution masterpiece.
“Men have become the tools of their tools.” Henry David Thoreau
What’s the issue here? A ton of time is wasted discussing tools. The sad truth is that a new tool won’t guarantee success. Poor data sources, sloppy business processes or lack of user engagement are often counteracting the new benefits. etc.. Better tools alone won’t create better output. It takes skills to put the tools to good use. A poorly composed photograph that was taken with an expensive camera is still a crappy picture. A poorly designed dashboard built with an expensive tool will collect dust. It’s that simple. Ansel Adams is one of the most admired photographers out there. He used ancient tools. Would he have been able to make even better photos with today’s equipment? Most likely, but his photographs are still absolutely amazing.
Work on your skills instead of wasting time.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a time when it is really important to think about your tools. But it can’t be the constant focus. It’s easy and comfortable to drool over or to bash a set of features and functions. It’s a lot harder to put these tools to their best use. Pixel and dashboard peeping is a form of laziness. It distracts us from what’s important. Instead, we should take the time to hone our skills: data modeling, dashboard design, visualization techniques, business trends, etc.. My prior client that I mentioned earlier never took the time to work on the inputs for the dashboards.
Well, I stopped reading the camera forums and have decided that the discussions won’t help me take better photographs. Instead, I have resorted to taking more photos, instead. Why don’t we take the time to sit down with our business partner and build a solid prototype? Why don’t we attend a training in report design? Why don’t we read an article about data visualization?