We sat in a nice pub as Sandy rolled in to Toronto last night, just a few data scientists and I.

“It’s very difficult to express, succinctly, how dashboards aren’t what people have been told they are.”

“Well, you know what the problem with dashboards is.. that they’re not presented in 1080p High Definition. We need to get our dashboards in High Definition.”

“Or retina display!”

“No. In 3D!”

“Pie charts will COME, RIGHT, AT, YOU!”

And after laughing for about five minutes, our shoulders bowed upon realizing that somewhere out there, regardless of how ridiculous the concept is, some group of finger-clickers are discussing the same idea right now. Only that they’re serious about it. And that retina high definition 3D dashboards are imminent.

Ultimately, dashboards are an instrument that causes a feeling. A good dashboard makes you feel more informed. And feeling more informed is a feeling of power…to apply the same heuristics we always apply to the same data…only faster.

They add to ones current understanding, and reinforces it.

This, for sure, is the easiest sale. Because it’s the promise of making what people already do, better. And, it comes with some vague statement that insights follow.

Only that, as marketing scientists, we know that insights do not flow from a time series of a single variable and expressed as a handful of summary statistics. The relationship between two variables, to be sure that they’re related, needs to happen by way of actual statistical analysis. This isn’t merely eyeballing the data and finding an existing meaning within the dominant heuristic. In other words, dashboards alone don’t actually cause an optimized state. They require people to apply heuristics to generate a better future. And that future is really unlikely to be the optimized one.

There are very lucrative consulting practices out there dedicated to the selection of KPI’s in context and the construction of dashboards that match. There is nothing wrong with this sector. Clients should know what they’re really buying, and, indeed, many do. And that’s great. There’s real value in making the immediate future, better.

And there is a land of analytics that’s quite a bit harder to run, express, but so much more likely to generate very important truths about to make far better outcomes.┬áThe search for disruptive information, insights, is a very different activity than rapid reportage. It takes different tools, concepts, and methods. And, it’s the path less travelled. I believe it’s worth travelling.

Coming near you, soon, 3D dashboards.