Drinking from the Water Hose
Why is my Chief Security Officer trying to drink from a water hose? Well, she was thirsty, and this is her preferred method of hydration. However, more importantly, she was illustrating an important point about how easy it is to be overwhelmed by a steady stream of anything, especially data.
You may have heard about the concept of Drinking from the Fire Hose, and you may be familiar with the book by the same name. It's sometimes difficult to identify just how often we are overwhelmed by the data we are asked to digest.
I was reminded of this notion just the other day when a client sent me an 81-slide PowerPoint report that another vendor had submitted. My client had read the report, but wasn't quite sure what to do with it. Sure, there was a Key Takeaways slide, but it had just four main bullet points that reiterated some data from the deck. There were no implications or recommendations provided. My client wanted someone to take another look and to provide more actionable feedback.
Sometimes as a supplier, it's difficult to know how the client will use findings from a primary research project, but we have to tell a concise story and make an effort to rein in our regurgitation of every detail in the tabs. If clients want to know every detail, they can read the tabs themselves. What value are we adding?
I often tell the next generation of researchers that it’s 10x harder to create one good summary slide than 50 slides with graphs. There’s just no thought that needs to go into transforming tabs into graphs, but to truly pull data together like a jigsaw puzzle to make a point can take hours.
That’s sometimes why I like qualitative research reporting. You can’t use numbers as a crutch. You have to weave a story together by using other people’s words. We should try to apply that same storytelling mindset to quantitative research, and not get so lost in the details that we inundate our client with a spray of useless information.