The Motion Picture Association of America’s film rating system rates a film’s content suitability for variuos audiences. For example, A PG-13 rating requires children age 13 or under to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian if some content is deemed inappropriate.
Let’s consider a similar rating system for using analytics. I think children should have restrictions on when parents or adults can engage on what children are analyzing.
Children and curiosity
When I was young I loved math. I was quantitative and analyical. Growing up in the 1950s, we did not have PlayStations, Nintendos, or Xboxes – no video games at all. We did not have 150 channels on cable or satellite TV or video movies or DVDs. We had no surround sound or CDs, no smart phones, no personal computers and no Internet. But we did have our imaginations, and we made up games. One game I played was dice baseball.
With my dice baseball game the roll of the dice led to a batter making hits or outs. I played full seasons for teams and maintained records. A result is I learned a lot about probabilities and statistics. I learned how to accumulate numbers and compute batting averages and team statistics. When adults poked their head in to see what I was doing, although their observations and suggestions were well intended, they confused me. I preferred to make up my own methods.
Was I being short-minded? Did I not want them to enter my world of play?
Analytics for adults
Today I sense experienced analysts are somewhat like children. And that is a good thing. What experienced analysts want is easy and flexible access to data and the ability to manipulate it. They too have curiosity and imagination. Experienced analysts typically do not plow through data like searching for a diamond in a coal mine or flogging the data until it confesses with the truth. Rather they hypothesize that two or more variables are somehow related and there is some pattern or insight to be discovered in how the variables behave.
Eventually managers and employee teams, the “adults” in this scenario, should get involved with seeing and understanding what that the analyst is investigating. But analysts should be allowed their play time to explore. That provides them the time to let their curiosity and imagination go full steam ahead.
Postscript: Baseball Hall of Fame
A few years ago during my junior year in 1970 at Cornell University my classmate Pete Watzka and I converted my childhood dice baseball game into a computer program for an operations research game theory course. I used the “random number generator function (1-100)” to do what the dice did when I was a kid. I submitted my computer code (done on big IBM card decks) to James Gates, the librarian at the USA’s National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York – and voila. It was accepted as the oldest computer baseball game!
Unaccompanied analysts can produce results.