The title of this post is an homage to Dan Meyer, a high school math teacher and TED speaker. He argues that the traditional methodology for teaching math is fundamentally flawed.
“I sell a product to a market that doesn’t want it, but is forced by law to buy it.” – Dan Meyer
Watching his talk, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the way the Business Intelligence concepts and methodologies have traditionally been presented to non-techies. Is it just a matter of complex tools? Or is it deeper?
“The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill” – Albert Einstein
Meyer references this quote by “the man”, Albert Einstein. Can you think of how B.I. manages the formulation of data schemas, hierarchical data models, nesting, etc? Bust open a textbook or Wikipedia, read it, then ask yourself, how engaging would this content be to someone who:
1. Lacks initiative
2. Lack perserverance
3. Lacks retention
4. Has an aversion to word data problems
5. Eagerness for formula reporting output
Meyer highlights these factors as being emblematic of his captive audience in the classroom. I’ve made a couple of adjustments to tweak the context to that of B.I. If you don’t agree that these factors apply equally to the vast majority of business users of B.I., please speak up.
Advances in technology are creating the ability to put the tools into the hands of the end user. Our technology is proof of that; however, we still have some serious work to do on the owner’s manual.
For example, How would you deconstruct the process of building a data hierarchy to facilitate creation of a Data Mart?
I’ve recently started volunteering with Junior Achievement teaching business concepts to 5th graders. You can see the attention of my little budding capitalists wax and wane throughout the session. They haven’t yet learned to hide their expressions so when they “check out” it’s pretty obvious. But I’m glad for it. I know exactly when I need to inject some PT Barnum into the act.
Let’s do the same for Business Intelligence.
Here’s Dan Meyer’s suggestions for fixing math education delivery. Let’s do the same and give Business Intelligence class a makeover.
1. Use multimedia
2. Encourage students business users intuition
3. Ask the shortest question you can
4. Let students business users build the problem
5. Be less helpful
I encourage you to watch the whole talk (below):