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Data Pointillism: Are You Too Close To Your Customer Data?

I hate when I go to museums where other patrons crowd too close to the paintings. Don’t they know that you sometimes need a little distance to really see the art? Or that they are preventing others from viewing the painting from an appropriate distance? Very annoying.

This is especially true for art created using pointillism. I can stare at a pointillist piece for 20 minutes, easy. I can appreciate the technique—the way one group of simple dots can create a totally different dimensional feel than another equally labor-intensive group of dots.

Same with customer data. You may have collected thousands of data points. You savor them for a time (I know I do!), and that’s fine. But then it’s time to step back, and take it all in…unless something blocks you. It may even be that you have colleagues who are so hung up on examining the little dots up close, that you get stuck too.

Be bold. Break away from the crowd. Step back.

Read a book, and then come back to the data. Or take a walk. View a webinar on an unrelated topic. Read a favorite magazine. Anything to break the trance.

Those of us who spend a lot of time analyzing data know that too much time is wasted by being hung up on the small points. Then we risk running out of time for the creative thinking necessary to distill out the big “so what” findings.

With pointillism, the mind blends individual paint dots into a single image. With market research data, we have to let the data “dots” become our masterpiece of synthesis.

Are you too close to your data? So close that all you see is the thousands of little data points? What can you do to get the distance you need to really see the whole picture?

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Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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2 thoughts on “Data Pointillism: Are You Too Close To Your Customer Data?”

  1. Well put!

    I’ve often argued that much of the reason for the “lack of respect” many researchers complain about is just this – too many researchers spend their time producing data dumps instead of figuring out and telling the story in the data.

    If more people in research would take this advice, I think they would find that seat at the marketing table they’re looking for.

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