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Data doesn’t kill creativity – it requires it

by Lizeth Zambrano

Art-Hand
Let’s be honest, most of you wouldn’t classify data science work as ‘creative’. Art and science are thought of as opposites. Practitioners in these fields are constantly pitted against each other. Left brain versus right brain. Logical thinking versus creative thinking. But is this really the case? Here’s where data science fits within ¬the ‘new age’ of creativity.

What does a Data Scientist do?

Think of us as a client’s psychologist. To kick off, we uncover a client’s business dilemmas and their immediate needs. A data scientist needs to be a quick learner and have no hesitation when it comes to getting a clear understanding of a business’s procedures and dynamics.

Once we’ve finished listening and learning, we spring into action. This is where it gets interesting. We gather and analyse large volumes of data to find hidden patterns, correlations and trends. Once this data crunching is complete, we create predictive models to solve business problems or anticipate any upcoming issues.

Finally, we reach the endgame: the outcome. The outcome reveals precious findings on how to tackle the identified business deficiencies. Generally speaking, they’re solutions that can’t be seen with the naked eye. At this stage, the data scientist is like an optometrist – we prescribe a method to focus and magnify those corporate insights, so the company leaders can make data-driven business decisions.

So, how does creativity fit into this?

Being creative is a very important part of the data scientist’s role. In fact, it requires an incredible amount of imagination. And while you may not agree, some data science outcomes are considered fine art.

We filter through truck-loads of information, identify patterns, and produce targeted conclusions. These conclusions help to understand the consumer’s interests, inclinations and needs. Essentially, we start with a blank canvas, and by the time we’re through, a masterpiece of data is unveiled.

Visualisation is also another skill in our bag of tricks. We may not be considered ‘Picassos’, but we do have the ability to create an eye-catching visual or infographic out of a stone-cold slab of data. This involves plenty of creativity and critical thinking.

And finally, a data scientist does so much more than draw conclusions – we actually tell stories through the information that we present. A key part of our role is to communicate strategic ideas to clients in clear-cut, powerful ways, so it’s not just numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. It’s imperative that we turn the information into a compelling story that can influence the key business decision-makers. What could be more creative than that?

Data science is not void of creativity – it is creativity. Nowadays, there’s a shrinking gap between art, data and technology, and it’s this confluence that has taken advertising to the next level. So, next time someone pits data and creativity on opposing sides, remember that they live side-by-side –­ and often overlap.

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