Aug 30 2010

What does personal grooming have to do with business intelligence?

Categories: Rants Dave Rathbun @ 8:40 pm

This post is a bit outside of my normal technical content. I was struck by something on the way home today and can’t get it out of my head until I write it down. For the past several years (since 2005, I think) I have had a beard. A few weeks ago, I shaved it off. Guys that have worn then removed beards will probably be able to answer this next question: What is the most common comment I receive from people that are seeing me for the first time without my long-time beard?

The number one comment is, “Nice haircut.” :lol:

The same thing seems to happen every time I switch from bearded to beardless. The fact is that I didn’t get a haircut. I shaved my beard. But people are creatures of habit. When something is different but not “different enough” it seems to be hard to properly discern the true change. People correctly identify that I have less hair. They incorrectly identify the source of the change.

Can the same thing happen with our reports? Sure. The correct result can be right in front of us, but we’re so accustomed to seeing things in a particular way that we can still derive the wrong conclusion even with correct data. What does this say about our ability to be successful in our attempts to convey critical information via our various business intelligence tools? How effective can a message be (even if it’s the correct message) if it is interpreted incorrectly?

4 Responses to “What does personal grooming have to do with business intelligence?”

  1. Comment by Chris Pohl

    technically i guess shaving the beard IS getting a haircut ;)

  2. Comment by Nick

    You should really provide before and after pictures…we can then innundate you with ‘Nice Haircut’ comments…

  3. Comment by John Clark

    I also had a beard for several years and then shaved it off. (I joined the local paid on call fire department and this was a requirement.) I didn’t get the “Nice haircut” comments but many people had never known me without a beard so it was pretty obvious to them.

    I don’t grow my beard back and then shave it off so I don’t get the repetition from going through this process.

    My observation is that people already have some preconceived ideas when they come to observations. Some call this a “grid”. We all view things through our own grid, which is an accumulation of our life experiences. Unfortunately, this usually colors our perception of what we may be seeing.

    I’ve also observed that there are those that feel they need to say something but don’t really know what to say. Sometimes, this results in comments that are inappropriate. Sometimes, it results in things that are inaccurate such as your example of “Nice haircut” even though you shaved your beard.

    As applied to Business Intelligence, I’m afraid this will always be the case. People will interpret the data differently even if there is one primary reason that it is being presented. I think the only thing we can do is to make sure the data is as accurate as possible.

  4. Comment by Ton

    One should put less effort in layout and more in accuracy

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