POV: Data Visualization and the Evolution of “Two Minute Take-Aways”

When we launched our firm, nearly a decade ago, an area of emphasis was to provide clients with research reports that included succinct up-front summaries of essential findings. Dubbed two-minute takeaways, these upfront slides, with quick bullet point summaries, remain a staple with many of our clients, particularly those who are less apt to engage in slides upon slides of data tables and charts. Of late, though, driven both by direct and implied client comments, and our own monitoring of best practices across related verticals like management consulting, we’ve become enamored with a heightened emphasis on info-graphics. And it appears to be with good reason. A 2013, Microsoft report revealed that the average human attention span was just at eight seconds. Couple this with the fact that visuals and images are processed 60,000x faster than text, SLRG has begun to selectively evolve our two-minute takeaways into 20-second takeaways, with images and visuals or dashboards often replacing or supplementing the succinct bullet points that seemed all the rage, just a few years ago. That’s not to say that we’ve willingly embraced what in some instances can be an unrealistic desire to oversimplify rather complex findings, but at our firm it has always been important for us to understand what the client’s needs are and how the research is going to be used. This predicates the way in which we communicate our data, and increased client interest in the use of customized dashboards is a large part of that. The key for researchers and research clients, though, is to not use these 20-second takeaways as a shortcut, but to also look at the more rigorous analysis and data, from which broader insights can be derived. The ultimate solution for our clients is to combine both.