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How to Get Creative With Data Mining

Moving day! Friday at 5pm our Facilities department started moving the entire marketing department from the second floor down to the first. Today has been the first day in our new digs. It’s very different. It’s an open configuration. With convertible desks, we have the option to stand or sit. Also, one of our development teams is sitting with us. It’s fun to now be with the entire marketing team. It encourages the creative juices to flow. All in all, it’s a big change.

One of the potential pitfalls in the analytics world is getting bogged down with requests and reporting. It’s easy to become a reporting monkey. Once in that role, it’s hard to get out of it. But it is possible. A big part of the change needs to come from within. You have to believe that you are more than a reporting monkey. One of the things that I have found that helps is to dedicate a small amount of time each day to data mining. I also call this “going down rabbit holes”. Most of the time people talk about going down rabbit holes as a bad thing. Often it is. However, sometimes cool and useful things are found when a person dares to go down a rabbit hole.

Part of being an analyst is being creative. Once you have time to dedicate to data mining, you need to come up with ideas of what to do during that time. This is where the creative part comes in.

  • Look for ideas in everyday conversations.

People frequently say, “I wonder (fill in the blank).” Take some time to answer the “I wonder” questions; you have the potential to find something that could change your company.

  • Look for ideas in your reports.

If a product or marketing channel has something significant about it, investigate it. Spend time digging into it and see if it applies to other channels.

  • Look for ideas in other ideas.

As you are exploring and jumping into these rabbit holes, often other ideas come to mind. Write them down and then see where they lead.

If you take the time to write these data mining ideas down, you will have plenty of ideas to reference. When your data mining time approaches you can try to find something that will help the company.

A word of caution: At my last company, I tried to implement a “Data Mining Day”—one day every two weeks that was set aside for the sole purpose of data mining. It failed. The reason it failed was because the team was not dedicated to it. Instead of using “Data Mining Day” to investigate new ideas and run down rabbit holes, it was used to catch up on other work. This lack of commitment led to the demise of “Data Mining Day” (may it rest in peace).

As an analyst, your most awesome, company-changing analyses can come from data mining. Try it, maybe you’ll like it.

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