Perspective on Data

Having the proper perspective is one of the more challenging aspects of data management.   One way to approach data is to consider it in terms of information.  Data is the raw material needed to make an informed decision.   In other words, information is the result of applying process (i.e. analysis or thought) to the data.

Data consumers from different parts of an organization often require the same data, raw material, for their analysis.  But each has their own perspective and interpretation of the data. Quite often, these different perspectives raise questions of data quality when in fact you’re not actually comparing data but the intepretation of the data.

Below is a parable about Blind Men and the Elephant that illustrates how very different information can be when derived from different perspectives.  Always consider the consumer’s perspective when evaluating data quality.  Next time you’re in a discussion about data quality, data might literally be the elephant in the room!

 

Blind Men and the Elephant

poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887)

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

Blind Men and the Elephant - Elephant

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!”

Blind Men and the Elephant - Wall

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

Blind Men and the Elephant - Spear

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!

Blind Men and the Elephant - Snake

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
” ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!”

Blind Men and the Elephant - Tree

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

Blind Men and the Elephant - Fan

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

Blind Men and the Elephant - Rope

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Blind Men and the Elephant - Wrong

Moral

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

copied from http://www.wordfocus.com/word-act-blindmen.html
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