Bringing Research Data to Life

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Last week Mark delivered the keynote address at the Tableau Data Conference 2016 on Bringing Research Data to Life. Here is an excerpt of his presentation:

Management expert Tom Peters is well known for his phrase “What gets measured gets done.” But we could add to that: what gets visualised gets read. What gets effectively communicated gets acted upon!

That’s why research is at its best when it tells a story, when it paints a picture, when it’s visual, when it’s research you can see.

World’s-best research will only spread as far as the look of it allows. World-changing data will have no impact unless it is well designed. World-class information will remain unshared unless it is easily understood.

Here at McCrindle, we’re social researchers. But in many ways we’re all social researchers. We all observe our society, study the patterns, and draw insights and conclusions from what we see.

But more than that. We’re all visual researchers. We gather information from what we see, we gather data from what we observe. It is the research that we see that we respond to best. When making decisions, it is the visual cues which guide us. Wear marks in grass show the most popular path, a show of hands, the length of a queue- these are visual research methods we employ to make decisions.

We live in a visual world. Languages are not universal but symbols are. Pictures not statistics connect across the generations.

And so we’re moving from an information era to an infographic era. In a world of big data- we need visual data.

It’s called reSEARCH for a reason, They’re called inSIGHTS on purpose, it’s more about visuals that tables, graphics not just analytics – you’ve got to see it before you can act upon it! Inaccessible research in the form of statistical tables and lengthy explanations won’t transform organisations.

Statistics should be fun- like animation. People should be able to play with data. Research reports should not sit on shelves but be interacted with, and shared on social media, or printed on book marks or beamed onto buildings.

Big data doesn’t have to be boring data!

Data is too important to be left in the hands of statisticians alone. Research needs to get beyond the researchers. We’re in an era of the democratisation of information. For this to be realised, big data has to be set free- and research has to be made accessible to everyone.

Research methodologies matter. Quality analysis is important. But making the data visual, creating research that you can see, ensuring the information tells a story - that’s absolutely critical.

Research that makes a difference has to be seen with the eyes of your head as well as the eyes of your heart. It makes sense rationally, and connect with it viscerally.

It’s about turning tables into visuals, statistics into videos and big data into visual data.

But research can’t be applied until it’s been understood.

It needs to be seen not just studied.

And until the last excel table has been transformed there’s work to be done.


Mark is an award-winning social researcher, best-selling author, TedX speaker and influential thought leader, and is regularly commissioned to deliver strategy and advice to the boards and executive committees of some of Australia’s leading organisations.

Mark’s understanding of the key social trends as well as his engaging communication style places him in high demand in the press, on radio and on television shows, such as Sunrise, Today, The Morning Show, ABC News 24 and A Current Affair.

His research firm counts amongst its clients more than 100 of Australia’s largest companies and his highly valued reports and infographics have developed his regard as a data scientist, demographer, futurist and social commentator.



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