Enterprise Executive 2017: Issue 2 : Page 10

the probability of making at least one false discovery—or on a false discovery rate (FDR)— the long-term proportion of discoveries that will be false. There are lots of good internet resources that discuss multiple comparisons and how to control the FWER or FDR. Be sure you understand these ideas so you can avoid “data dredging.” “Most problems have either many answers or no answer. Only a few problems have one answer.” ~ Edmund Berkeley, computer scientist Modern computing enables us to find precise answers to imprecise problems. Sometimes this precision leads us to forget just how approximate our models are. While algorithms tend to yield a single optimal solution, the difference between the identified solution and the next-best one is probably practically insignificant. There are usually many moving parts and a slight change to one of them is not going to drastically alter the result. The best data science tools enable decision makers to explore the decision space. This gives decision makers both a sense of ownership and an understanding of how different sources of variability affect the value of their decisions. It may also change their opinion on how they should weigh competing objectives. We as consumers appreciate the ability to consider all our options when shopping online, even for modestly priced items. For sizeable investments, it stands to reason that consumers of our data science tools would appreciate the same luxuries. “Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger.” ~ Franklin P. Jones, author This quip gets at how difficult it is to graciously accept criticism, regardless of your relational context to said critics. Often, the people who deliver constructive criticism 10 | E nt e rp r i s e E xe c u t i ve | 2017: Issue 2 TOP SEVEN effectively do so by never appearing to criticize. They coach. They suggest. They camouflage their criticism as helpful hints. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be enough of these sorts of critics to go around. Once people catch on to their tricks, as polite as they are, they may still have a hard time accepting their “suggestions.” We think this quote could be a great tag line for data science tools. Yes, honest criticism is hard to take from other humans, but what about from computers and other electronic devices? Think about the last time you watched someone use a data science tool to manage their business. You may have noticed that it turned the back-and-forth of receiving and responding to criticism into a sort of game. Good data science tools do this. They don’t criticize. They use facts to tell a story and then provide suggestions to improve the business. Good data science tools, like games, provide a safe space where users learn the rules of the game and master the techniques necessary to advance to the next level. As the value of data science continues to become increasingly clear, it’s important that we continue to keep the big picture in mind. Business leaders are motivated to use data science tools because they tell compelling stories. They extract meaning from data in ways that are both creative and actionable. In that regard, data science tools are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike spreadsheets. In case you’re wondering, that was a reference to another Douglas Adams quote. We hope the above quotes and subsequent comments helped you reflect on the application of data science. EE Rob Sickorez leads data science projects for Cyber Group, when he’s not working on his dissertation in Statistical Science. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematical Sciences and Operations Research from the Air Force Academy, and a Master’s Degree in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School. Prior to returning for a Ph.D. in Statistical Science, he spent 10 years in analytical and project management roles in industries, including the military, financial services and retail. He likes to think of himself as a data therapist as he enjoys working with non-technical business leaders to help them overcome their data anxieties. Email: rob.sickorez@cygrp.com

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