Blog Article Collection

Drips, Data and Dogs: The weather report for your next meeting

Added on: 7-Mar-17 12:00am

Author: Stuart Waters

As I write, my part of the NSW coast is just emerging from another drenching by a ‘Tasman Low’ – a weather system that picks up water over the Tasman Sea and drops it unrelentingly on our heads as heavy rain. It brings floods, leaking roofs, depressed dogs and piles of wet clothing.

It reminds me of some meetings I’ve been to over the years. I don’t mean that I’ve emerged from the room drenched or smelling like a wet dog. Rather, I mean that I feel half drowned by the deluge of information.

Because this week I realised that data is like water. We need it. We can’t thrive without it. But too much can overwhelm us. And I’m afraid that we too often leave meetings feeling soaked to the skin by the flood rather than nourished by the gentle rain.

Driving around town this past week I have seen all the stormwater drains full to overflowing. The creeks are rushing torrents. Water has been pouring out of over-filled gutters and flowing uselessly across yards and roads and down to the sea.

Isn’t that just what happens to information when we dump too much of it on people in too short a time? Rather than soaking in where it can support new growth and new ideas, a flood of data becomes runoff, a wasted product that pours down the drain and away, never to be seen again.

As any gardener will know, the best rain is the gentle soaking variety. Gentle rain may give way to brief pauses when the water can soak in. Not a drop is wasted. The soil fills with moisture and new growth is almost instantaneous. To me, data feels just the same. It is most useful when we share it steadily, when recipients are given time to make sense of new data and let it ‘soak in’. We don’t want to waste it. We don’t want most of what we share to disappear down the data drain. We want new data to become new information, new knowledge, new decisions and understanding.

This means we need to slow down the data dump. Just like water, a slow and steady drizzle will do more for the garden than a short sharp downpour. So if you want people leaving your meetings feeling more like new rosebuds than week old wet dog, don’t waste a precious drop of data. Go easy with the hose.

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