equations on whiteboard

Business Analytics: First, Get Organized

There are four classes for the Certificate in Business Analytics. This semester I’m enrolled in Spreadsheet Model & Data Visualization. The class is pretty much what you’d expect from the title – we’re learning how to model spreadsheets and visualize data. Because who would have thought that you can’t make data-based decisions if your data isn’t organized!

In the last two weeks, I’ve spent more than 30 hours with an Excel tutorial and barely made it through seven lessons (I thought that I had a decent handle on the program. I didn’t. I don’t).

Word problems, logic analysis… these things do not come easily to me. To my detriment, I have historically avoided them.

On the upside, things are starting to get better. The tools are becoming more familiar and my brain is adjusting to these new-to-me ways of solving problems.

One interesting thing we learned about is an Influence Diagram – one of those visualizing things. Essentially, the idea is to take atopic and break it down into levels of influencers. It’s all about the hierarchy of the parts, similar to a work breakdown structure but not really a flow chart.

Last week, John Cleese (yes, THAT John Cleese) was here to give a talk about creativity (in addition to being a ridiculously successful writer and actor he’s also a ridiculously successful entrepreneur and thought leader). One of his discussion points was comparing the "hare brain" to the "tortoise brain." The hare brain is task oriented, using a well-trodden path to problem solving, while the tortoise brain is creative and finds new ways to solve problems. And as much as this class is all about tools and processes and things that I attribute to that hare brain, I’m discovering that it’s more about being so familiar with the tools and rules that free your mind to pursue the untrodden trail – to release that creativity.

Adjacent notes:

1) If you’re here in the Twin Cities next week, TPT is hosting a screening of the documentary “The Human Face of Big Data” on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

2) This week, Apple president Tim Cook sent an open letter to iPhone users that has significant implications for data privacy. I strongly recommend that you read it.

We live in interesting times.


Opus Magnum will follow Ghislaine’s progress through the certificate program. A native New Yorker by way of Texas, Ghislaine has a long career in marketing from large multi-national corporations to small niche agencies. Ghislaine completed her St. Thomas MBA in 2008 and in her own words, "I liked St. Thomas so much I went to work for the organization."