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Be Data Inspired

My wife, Hayley, enjoys a daily walk and the odd gym session, but nothing too strenuous or serious. So, I decided that I’d get her a new sports watch for Christmas. She didn’t expect it and if asked, she probably would have said she didn’t need it, but I thought it would be a nice gift. I think I was right.

Like any new device, it takes some work to set up and become familiar with the functions. Pairing with a phone, personalising and customising the interface and downloading the necessary apps…..and now she is away. As she becomes more acquainted with it, I’ve been fascinated by the level of information, detail and data available. Although its main job is to tell the time, it’s the other functions that I’m amazed by. Probably the most intriguing is a statistic called the Body Battery. It’s a feature that uses a combination of heart rate variability, stress and activity to provide a percentage of energy reserves that you have available for that day.

I’ll admit that some of the information is helpful, and in many cases, it may be pretty accurate. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. It can’t replace her insight to understand how she actually feels, rather than what she is meant to feel. Although it may help to understand her sleep quality, it doesn’t actually know if she tossed and turned or lay awake. It definitely doesn’t take into consideration the emotional rollercoaster of life. That is her interactions with other humans.

This is where it got me thinking about schools. We have a plethora of data sets available to us, and often we are encouraged to place significant weight and emphasis on the numbers. It may be internal data like our own Growth, Raw Scores, Mean, Medium and Bands. In some cases, it’s external data produced by a team of researchers. It’s all important information, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The challenge isn’t with the data itself, it’s how you use it. The numbers alone can be deceptive, but they can be compelling when coupled with your intuition or your ‘gut feeling’. Our teachers and their personal experience can be the most valuable asset in our schools. This is what creates the culture. There’s no exact science or formula for this; it’s about the interactions, the connections and the behaviours exhibited. It’s about cracking the code for your school community and finding what’s best. Only your community can find the answer to this.

The next time you sit down with your team, take the approach of being data-inspired, not data-driven. Data-driven is where we make strategic decisions based on the analysis of numbers. On the other hand, data-inspired is where we go beyond the numbers and reach an emotional tipping point before arriving at a decision. It’s when we put people in the process, ensuring that we don’t lose sight of their intuition.

Check out other articles Simon has written here.