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Honor Thy Error: The Power of Perspective in Data Visualization

For more than 40 years, a small deck of cards has had an outsized impact on pop culture. Primarily used to stimulate creative thinking in the development processes of films and music, this exercise involves drawing cards that compel lateral thinking in order to overcome creative blocks. It has helped catalyze artistic breakthroughs from musicians including R.E.M., Coldplay, and David Bowie. 

Invented by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1975, Oblique Strategies forces the card reader to rethink a given scenario or challenge, viewing it from an altered vantage point. By offering self-imposed constraints in which to view the challenge, the exercise is intended to push the reader to a higher creative plane to reach a resolution.

Examples of phrases printed on the cards include:

  • Honor thy error as a hidden intention.
  • What to increase, and what to reduce?
  • Discard an axiom.
  • Work at a different speed.

When facing an intractable challenge, the path forward is sometimes revealed through a series of creative exercises.  Other times, a solution may present itself simply by viewing the challenge from a different type of perspective altogether, i.e. a visual representation of pertinent data in a chart or graph. There are countless ways to visualize data: across maps, with Sankey diagrams, using bullet charts, etc. Any number of visualizations could be the lens to yield a eureka moment for an organization – a moment that could be measured in increased revenue, reduced costs, or improved productivity.  

For example, say an American Airlines employee wanted to better understand where flight delays occurred within their network during the Thanksgiving travel season. Here’s what happens when this person tries a network analysis visualization…

That one's okay, but it's really hard to see any patterns in the data. Here’s an alternate version…

Close, but not quite there. It seems like the third time's the charm with this visualization. 

This network analysis visualization is meaningful because it presents a clear, easy-to-understand picture showing what otherwise would be a complicated scenario. Again, the data used for these three visualizations is the same, but when viewed through the right lens, the user can extract meaningful intelligence that can be used as a foundation to make more data-driven decisions.   

Enter MicroStrategy Desktop and its extensive library of visualizations. Desktop is easy to use, providing users with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, and it won’t cost you a dime. When faced with a confounding challenge at your organization, consider putting Desktop to work for you. See how data discovery can lead to new, creative solutions for your organization. 

Download MicroStrategy Desktop today and try viewing your data differently. 

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