Noting the noticing; Analyzing the analysis

Harmony Crawford
Co-Founder 26 Jun, 2024

I’ve noticed myself noticing some interesting things lately.  

I’ve been nursing a torn meniscus in my knee for the last several months. For a while, I was pretty cranky about it. But, as with so many unexpected hurdles that come our way, the experience has brought with it an interesting set of learnings.  

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I’ve learned a lot about anatomy – especially how much it’s not really our knees, but rather our hips, glutes and core that are often the source of disfunction in our knees.  

In building up my network of care providers – from physical therapist to massage therapist to sports medicine doctor and orthopedic surgeon — I have had access to an incredible store of specialists who have helped me better understand what we were taught in kindergarten. You remember, of course? That the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone is connected to the knee bone, the knee bone is connected to the shin bone, etc. So, it seems I’m learning to walk again, too?! Maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but, for one who has always taken pride in pace, my evening walks have had to slow way down while I walk with deliberate intention and focus to ensure key muscle groups are engaged, and mitigating for the compensation that led to injury.  

But, this slower pace has also allowed me to notice things I may have historically blazed on past in pursuit of a higher cardio rate.  

Along this path, it occurred to me that all this noticing is also part of what makes great analysts – seeing all the little pieces, but, also, how all the parts fit together to create something greater. And then noticing those bits that stand out to enhance or further enlighten.  

What I’ve also noticed is that often we need to break free from routine and rhythm to get to notice those bits – the things we call out as our “a-ha” observation, or that trigger inspiration.  

Often times analysts are spending nearly 70% of their time munging data – running ETL processes just to get the data into shape, then building queries or views or dashboards or pivot tables that summarize and visualize the outputs, left with just a fraction of time to actually DO the analysis. And all that data munging can often quell the creative inquiry process. I’ve often recommend either working as a tag team  — one analyst does the data munging, while another leads the inquiry of the data. Or, try to ensure there is sufficient time to step away and ruminate after all the munging, before coming back to analyze, summarize observations, and derive insights and conclusions. It’s really hard when we’re all moving so fast and rushing to get to outputs. But, taking a long slow walk can be just the thing to notice something else, and spark more meaningful insights. 

Years ago, when I was managing a team of analysts at The Seattle Times, we would often venture out as a group to break from the mundane and do something out of the realm of spreadsheets and formulae and dashboards. We hiked Tiger Mountain, or spent a day at the museum, or caught a new release matinee on a weekday. These little breaks that not only served as a team building activities, but they also afforded training opportunities for the brain to focus on something else. A diversion, a change of pace, a different experience, etc., inevitably led to bursts of inspiration – new dashboard designs, new ways of telling a data story, some different way to analyze the data or reflect a fresh perspective. Plus, who doesn’t love a day out of the office?! 

Our brains are wired for cognitive efficiency processes – labels, categories, boxing up and sorting ideas, observations, and frankly, life – all of these make moving through our days and making decisions faster, easier, and less overwhelming. But often, this tendency towards efficiency leads to lumping something in where maybe doesn’t actually belong. We might risk glossing over an important nuance, detail, or insight in the name of efficiency. And, who knows what else we might be missing? 

While I’m missing my speedier pace of yore, I am really enjoying what I’m noticing.  

What have you noticed lately?  

Written by Harmony Crawford

Harmony is a Co-Founder of Ones and Heroes. Her passion for meaningful data insights and story-telling is inspiring for those trying to transform complex data into compelling narratives.​