Data Science helps ‘Six Blind Men see the Full Elephant’ with DirigerSEE Greg L Towne

What we know

You can no longer look at data through a single touch point lens, for example a silo'd graph or similar two-dimensional, domain-based (silo'd) BI report.

Data, and business is becoming more complex and data views from yesterday no longer relate to how people work – and no one likes to be told that what they have been doing for many, many years is wrong when in fact; it was just less complex.

Not everyone has the capability to visualise the depth and breadth of what a Sunny Day Solution looks and feels like in today’s processed-based world.

Businesses and business processes are dynamic by nature and static views become irrelevant the day after they are created.

Data is the New Currency; it is exact; it doesn’t lie; albeit, it can have biases; but regardless, it needs to be monetised in order to add to our value chains.

We need more than just Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in systems to make a difference; we need to help folk explore more, take on new views of triggers and outcomes, and have better and more rewarding journeys.

Metaphors and Perceptions of the Single Touch Point

Various versions of The Blind Men and the Elephant exist; but there is a well-known version by John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan,

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant?

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, -”Ho! what have we here

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ‘tis mighty clear,

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a spear!”

The poem goes on to describe how the remaining four men each feel various parts of the elephant, likening it in turn to a snake (the trunk), a tree (the leg), a fan (the ear), and a rope (the tail).  The men then have an argument about what the elephant is like. However, as Saxe states, each man was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong.  None of them had the final answer on what an elephant is.

The moral of the tale is revealed in the closing lines

“so oft in theologic wars

The disputants…

Rail on in utter ignorance

Of what each other mean;

And prate about an elephant

Not one of them has seen!”

It is not too difficult to replace the elephant metaphor with modern day business situations and how new technology can provide Data Insights and Sunny Day Solutions that far exceed our past or current thought processes.

One such technology is DirigerSEE; a Real-time Persona-based data and business insights platform that surpasses standard Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse tools.

Managing Away from the Siloed Visual

But what exactly can we take away from the parable of the blind men and an elephant in order to help us understand the bigger picture and improve our business and personal lives - whilst having the right tools to solving our BIG business problems?

The blind men give us some tips on how we can use and manage each of our data insights for better outcomes; all we need do is apply some consultation, collaboration and compassion when we look at the insights and weigh up what they mean e.g. decide how data insights give you the full picture and not just a single two-dimensional report.

Consultation and Perspective

Modern technology does not necessarily act as just another consultant; in that, who have you consulted in the past and find you are still stuck with the same problem?

Have you looked at all the data instead of just a silo'd report for a single business domain?

Are there other Insights you need to establish in order to solve your problem or arrive at an opinion?

The source of the problem may not be in your business domain.

Instead, what if you try making a decision or acting on your own opinion until you have considered all the possible perspectives. It’s not so much about seeking an answer from various folk, but how their shared perspective or knowledge informs your understanding of the issue at hand.

Avoid polarising a debate into right versus wrong when using a single-point data visual. Sometimes, our fear of being wrong is the very thing that stops us from learning; from being better and doing better.

A multi-faceted visualisation solution like DirigerSEE will help you gain better perspectives through assisted data insights.

Collaboration and Acceptance of Data

Right and wrong does not have to be an either/or binary situation.  Just because your opinion or view of the data differs from someone else’s does not mean they are wrong, and you are right (or vice versa).  You may both be wrong or both be right... bit of Schrodinger’s Cat thrown in for good measure!

Be aware that the human urge to be right is fundamental to feeling safe and OK in the world, and there are times when a Data Insight takes you on a completely new journey.

Feeling wrong can be deeply uncomfortable for us.  No one wants to think that they have done or have been doing the wrong thing in their venture; however, trying to remove that discomfort by immediately defending or justifying our actions, can lead us to cling to unhelpful behaviours, beliefs and dysfunctional outcomes.  Give yourself and others permission to be wrong and to change it through better data insights.  It is OK for you to be wrong because these are just pieces of a much larger puzzle that the data insight is wanting to share with you.

Appreciate that most (if not all things) are dynamic.  Data Insight solutions such as DirigerSEE will adjust and adapt to the dynamic nature of business or the situation.

The situation over which we have opinions changes, as does our understanding, so we should change our opinions, practices and behaviours over time.  We are on a journey; except the big picture data – then set goals to collaborate and improve it. 

Compassion and Best Intentions

The blind men had much to learn from one another’s opinion of the elephant.  They all had their best intentions at heart when they described what they had perceived what an elephant is.

When you find someone giving you advice or showing you data that you resist, ask yourself if your resistance comes from how the advice makes you feel.  It may make you feel uncomfortable, unheard, misunderstood, shameful and all of those horrible things.  That doesn’t necessarily reflect what they think.

Do yourself a favour and make it about your data – not you.

Assuming the best of intentions is the best way to go – this is new technology and capability full of light bulb moments and the first reaction is “Why couldn’t we see this before”.

An Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning based solution is built on business rules, guided heuristics and other technologies that have the best intentions for supporting your outcomes in mind, namely it is similar to an opinion.  In real life; opinions are always best received when they are solicited, but when it comes to data insights that quantitatively pop up in front of you; it is not always appreciated.

Make it about the data, not about the people involved.


Now, all of this elephant thinking has its limits.  Those with a social science leaning are fairly comfortable with the idea of multiple truths.  Those with a more natural science leaning (like Systems Folk) are forever in search of the one single truth they believe can be found; especially when data is indicating so.

Nonetheless, there are times when we need to get together and decide what is right and wrong; which is why the blind men metaphor has so much to teach us – a single-touch no longer cuts it.  This is where it can be useful to approach the business processes, systems and data as if it were an elephant, with the same curiosity and open-mindedness.

Remember; some folk can’t even see the Elephant in the room in the first place.

Encourage participants to explore the whole elephant before they address just one part of the system from a single-touch view or two-dimensional report.

Focus on The BIG Problem; not small view reports.  Data doesn’t lie; but if not managed appropriately, it can lead to Fake News.

About the Author...

Greg Towne is a Co-Founder of Diriger with 35+ years of experience implementing Enterprise Resource Planning solutions and Business Process Improvement Initiatives in Mining, Utilities, Energy and Defence industries.  He is dedicated to working closely with our Customer’s in order to help them solve the BIG problems that have been in play for far too many years.