Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight

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3 Facts I Bet You Didn’t Know about Data Science and Scientists:

 

  1. Data scientists are not mystical practitioners of magical arts.
  2. Data scientists are “sexy” according to a recent Harvard Business Review article.
  3. Data science can “call presidential races, reveal more about your buying habits than you’d dare tell your mother, and predict just how many years those chili cheese burritos have been shaving off your life.”

I learned these facts minutes after picking up John Foreman’s new book Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight.  Data Smart is the textbook for anyone wanting to turn raw data into action that makes a difference.

John is the Chief Data Scientist for MailChimp.com, the email service powering subscriptions marketing campaigns.  MailChimp also powers blogs like this one, allowing you to sign up and receive blog posts in your inbox.  John has also worked with a range of organizations from the FBI and Department of Defense to global corporations including Coca-Cola and Intercontinental Hotels.  You can follow him on Twitter @John4man.

Data Smart by John ForemanJohn, who did you write this book for?

I wrote Data Smart for anyone who wants to learn the cutting edge analytic techniques that businesses like Amazon and Facebook are using to turn their data into revenue.

And when I say “learn,” I don’t mean just “learn about.” In Data Smart, readers use actual techniques, such as artificial intelligence and data mining, to solve real business problems. That way the reader can get a sense of how to apply them to their own work. Think of the book as on-the-job training.

That’s why each chapter works through a data science technique in Excel – spreadsheets are a safe environment that readers feel comfortable working and following along in.

He who would search for pearls must dive below. -John Dryden

I wrote Data Smart for anyone from business intelligence analysts to programmers to quantitative marketers to sports analysts to C suite executives. For anyone who truly wants to learn analytics, this is the most accessible book for gaining a foothold in the discipline.

Misconceptions about Data Science

Give us your definition of data science.  What’s the biggest misconception people have about your field?

Data science is the use of transactional business data (think sales data, website traffic, social interactions, ad conversion data, employee performance data, etc.) to make decisions that result in revenue growth for the business.

There are a few big misconceptions about data science. First, the field isn’t just for those who do online advertising (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, or Google). No, a brick and mortar mom-and-pop shop can benefit from artificial intelligence models too. For instance, if you run a hotel, being able to forecast demand in light of your prices and competitors’ prices is invaluable. And that’s true whether you’re a single hotel or Intercontinental.

Second, you don’t need a Ph.D. to do data science. Some of these techniques, like customer segment detection, are analytically tough, but anyone with the motivation and some spreadsheet skills can learn how to do it.

3 Ways to Achieve Your Goals

Goals 2014

Happy New Year!

The other day I posted the best book covers of 2013.  The artists and designers who create book jackets deserve recognition for the outstanding job they do.  Whether we realize it or not, the cover is often responsible for drawing us in.

Kicking off 2014, I am thinking about the goals I have for the year.  The book covers offer a metaphor for our goal-setting process.

Glancing at a book cover, we judge the content and the author.  When strangers look at us, like it or not, they often judge us in the same way.  They take a look, and judge on our appearance.  Unfortunately, this is common before anyone even understands our story.

MOST NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOCUS ON THE COVER

Is your goal this year to lose weight? Stay on that diet?  Exercise more?  Eat healthier?  Like a book cover, we often focus on how the world sees us by focusing on our physical appearance.  We don’t stop there.  We also think about our reputation.  Reputation defender services now help combat unwanted or unfair reviews online.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. -Lao Tzu

I can hear some of you saying, “Wait.  Skip, it’s the inside that matters!”  Some of you may be thinking about the verse in Samuel: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

That’s true.

I love what Jim Rohn said about that thought.  He said, “Work on the outside for people.  Work on the inside for God.”

NEW YEAR GOALS

If your life was a book, you would want the cover to be an award winner, and you would want the narrative to be superbly written.  Design your goals the same way.

Keep your external goals.  Losing weight may be just what you need.  Regular exercise may just save your life.  Eating more vegetables is always a good idea.  But make sure to add internal goals to your list.

1. Divide your goals into two lists:  the cover and the story.

A COVER goal is anything that is visible.  This list could include such things as quitting smoking, getting a better job or obtaining your ideal weight.  Anything that is seen by other people and the outside world goes in this column.

A STORY goal is what’s on the inside and goes into the second column.  Do you want to be a better friend?  How about being less critical and more positive?  What are your spiritual goals?

What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.” -Vern McLellan

Vern McLellan

The Best Book Covers of 2013

Star award against curtain background

Readers of this blog know that I love books.  There must be some psychological label for someone who must have a book within reach at all times.  Whether at home or at the office, whether on a flight or a long drive, I am uncomfortable unless a book is close by.

In recent years, my career has me surrounded with books.  As I walk down an aisle of books, I need to use all my willpower not to stop and start browsing. And what captures my attention?  Book covers.

Book Covers Pull You In

Do you ever buy a book because you are attracted to its cover?  Book covers do that.  A well-designed book jacket stops you. Maybe makes you squint or smile or pause for a second. It calls you to pick up the book and look inside.

Each year, I make a list of the best book covers.  Here is my 2013 list. (And, if you missed, here are the best book covers of 2012 and 2011.) What’s your favorite?

I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place by Howard Norman

I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place by Howard Norman

 

Shouting Won’t Help by Katherine Bouton

Shouting Won’t Help by Katherine Bouton

 

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

 

Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life With Dogs by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life With Dogs by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

 

Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive by David Goldstein and Otto Kroeger (see my interview with David Goldstein here.)

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East of Denver by Gregory Hill

East of Denver by Gregory Hill