We are experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or “Industry 4.0”), a revolution defined by waves of new technologies that combine the physical and digital worlds. No doubt you’ve noticed that a plethora of “smart” physical devices — from watches to speakers to refrigerators — are now connected to the Internet. This is Industry 4.0 in action. It’s all based on data. Data is the fuel that fuels this new era of constant technological breakthroughs.
As a result, data is now a valuable business asset. This means that data literacy—the fundamental ability to understand and use data—is a critical job skill for people in a variety of roles. In other words, organizations large and small need data-literate people who can handle data with confidence.
In a general business context, data literacy often means being able to:
· Access to the right data—for example, knowing how and where to access the data you need to do your job and make informed decisions.
· Processing data – this may include creating data, collecting data, managing data to ensure it is kept up to date, and of course keeping data secure.
Find meaning in numbers – I’m not talking about being a professional data scientist. Instead, it’s all about understanding what the data is telling you, often by using business analytics tools to uncover insights and identify business opportunities from the data.
· Communicating these insights to others in the business – If you want to turn insights into action, you must be able to communicate key information from your data to decision makers in your business.
An Accenture study highlights the stark reality of data literacy in the business world; while 75% of executives believe that all or most of their employees are proficient with data, only 21% of employees (across various roles) actually feel confident in their data literacy skills. Obviously, something went wrong here.
The good news is that as an individual, there are many ways you can improve your data literacy skills. Here are eight steps to help you get started:
1. First, if your employer doesn’t have a data literacy training program (in fact, every business should today), encourage them to create one.This article is about Why data literacy matters for every business Will help you make a compelling case for organization-wide data literacy training.
2. If organizational training isn’t an option, there are also many online courses to help you navigate your data—covering everything from basic data skills to advanced machine learning skills.A good place to start is to check out educational platforms like Coursera and Udemy, as well as educational platforms from Data Literacy Program. You will also find specific data literacy courses for different industries, such as healthcare (for example, Coursera has courses on data literacy in healthcare).
3. I also recommend taking a basic statistics course, as this will help you understand the fundamentals of data and analytics, and a basic data visualization course, as this will help you communicate insights from your data to others in your business.
4. At the same time, become familiar with using the data by digging into the company’s dataset (using any management dashboard or business intelligence tool the company has). Just dive in and try it out – for example, pull in a variety of different reports for different time periods. If you do not have access to data in your role, please request it.
5. Find a data mentor. This doesn’t have to be a data professional (though if you can make friends with a data scientist within your organization, go for it!) – it could just be someone confident digging into a company’s reporting system and using the numbers to back up their decisions. People who base their actions on reliable information, not just intuition.
6. If you’re wary of data, or just “not a digital person,” try to focus on the benefits of using data in your role. For example, data can help you understand your target audience, spot gaps in the market, make better decisions, back up your presentation with hard facts, and impress your boss.
7. It’s never a good idea to blindly track data, so learn to question whatever data you’re using. Good questions to ask include “Where did this data come from?” “Is this data valid?” and “Is the data biased?” There are many fascinating and shocking examples of data and AI bias, and I recommend reading this thread. This will help you question your company’s data and ensure decisions are made based on accurate and fair data.
8. Finally, don’t let fear or hesitation about data keep you from being data literate. I know data makes a lot of people nervous, but data literacy will be one of the most valuable skills in the workplace of the future, and hard work isn’t going to change that. So find ways to eliminate the fear of data and make it a normal part of your work life. Some people like to do this by reading whatever they can get their hands on until the subject becomes normalized. Others prefer to just dive in and learn as they go. It’s important not to let fear or hesitation hold you back. just data!
Read more about data literacy and other essential skills in my new book, Future Skills: 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in the Digital World. Written for anyone who wants to ride the digital transformation wave without being overwhelmed by it, this book explores why these vital future skills are important and how to develop them.