Sexy Statisticians

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From an article in Mckinsey Quarterly on how the web challenges managers, a great passage on an emerging skillset. Although it's a much broader article in terms of what it covers – comparing the rise of technology in organisations to previous periods of infrasructure development (a point made by Carr in his book Does IT Matter) – I was particularly drawn the following passage:  

I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I'm joking, but who would've guessed that computer engineers would've been the sexy job of the 1990s? The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that's going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.

I think statisticians are part of it, but it's just a part. You also want to be able to visualize the data, communicate the data, and utilize it effectively. But I do think those skills—of being able to access, understand, and communicate the insights you get from data analysis—are going to be extremely important. Managers need to be able to access and understand the data themselves.

One Response to Sexy Statisticians

  1. sinead says:

    um, i agree. i think it is important for us all to be able to decode the meaning and circumstance behind the numbers in data sets, and to be able to use it productively.
    have you looked up the raw data behind the current financial downturn? it is interesting to see how the stories presented to us by some media groups, or PR representitives are not supported by the raw data. we would be better placed to make more informed choices if we relied on our own interpretations of numbers sometimes.
    Sinead.