Force Yourself to Use Data


Have you ever read a page in a book and after the last word, realized you absorbed none of it?

I usually have to go back and skim over it a few times before what I was reading actually sinks in. Even then, I probably only absorbed 75 percent of it and will now have to settle for an incomplete summary in my head.

How about when it comes to the data and reports that your Box’s software spits out? Do you absorb it? Or do you simply glance at the numbers and then throw them aside?

In “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg, the author breaks down several instances where data was being gathered but not absorbed. For example, South Avondale Elementary School had been ranked as one of the worst schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. Teachers had been tasked to gather tons of data, but most did nothing with it.

But then something happened. A data room was created and each student was given an index card to be posted in the room. One day, a teacher got an idea to mark on his index cards which specific questions students got wrong on tests. He convinced another teacher to do the same. They each found a different weakness in their classes, traded their curricula and test scores went up.

As time progressed, more and more teachers began putting to use the data they were collecting. They collaborated and found patterns. The index cards broke it down, showing these trends, and then the teachers absorbed and applied the data.

Duhigg explained that those who do best at digesting data typically transform it. “When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we should force ourselves to do something with the data … If you read a book filled with new ideas, force yourself to put it down and explain the concepts to someone sitting next to you and you’ll be more likely to apply them in your life,” he wrote.

Data is everywhere in this day and age, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed and let it slip by. However, all those numbers your management software spits out at you will do nothing if you don’t absorb them. Percentages and breakdowns mean nothing if you read over them and fail to put anything into application.

Affiliate, make sense of your data. Transform it into something understandable. Talk about it with your staff. And then put it into action.

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at