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Creativity vs. Analytics: Are These Two Skills Incompatible?

In a nutshell, are great analytic people lacking creative skills? And are great creators lacking analytic skills? How to fix this gap?
Here are a few interesting questions:
  • Should analytic people focus on measuring, and nothing else? 
  • Do analytic people lack business skills because they were odd kids in high school, because the way the school system is working in US?
  • Is it impossible to hire great analytic people combining both soft and hard skills, because these very people are CEO's competing with your business and trying to kill you (business-wise) rather than work with you?
  • Do you think analytic people should not be involved in providing ideas to improve business?
  • Here are 5 ideas that were brought by analytic people: 
    • Idea suggested to Microsoft: add an "advertise with us" link on your front page
    • Idea suggested to Colgate: produce tooth paste with original flavors, for kids and for people who do not like fake mint
    • Idea suggested to Apple: turn off spell checker on web search, but turn it on when writing an email
    • Idea suggested to Google: index "related web pages", not just keywords, so that people can easily find "related links" as opposed to doing a pure keyword search - with all the limitations associated with keyword search
    • Idea suggested to the FBI: use decoy bank accounts to catch Nigerian and other fraudsters
    Do you think analytic people should not be involved in providing this type of insights to corporate executives, and if not, who should?

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Comment by Richard D. Quodomine on May 21, 2015 at 1:58pm

Creativity, in my view, is not related to analytics. Each are separate skills, and can be used alone or in concert. To me, creativity is the side of the coin where one uses intuition and a capacity for productive discovery to chart a course forward, and analytics is the use of data, facts and demonstrable patterns to predict a course forward.

There's a reason I use the term "chart" vs. "predict". A navigational chart shows depths, land/sea formations and winds, but the sea knows no master - thus a chart has an element of "best guess". Analytics is designed to take some of the guesswork out - by studying and using statistics (among other refined methodologies), the analyst tries to predict the likely elements of challenge and create a proper method for overcoming them. The creative person uses their intuition - and while some might prefer to use one way or the other, they aren't exclusive. Just different - and knowing how and when to use both is a skill for the analyst, or his/or her supervisor who wants the most out of them.

Comment by Vincent Granville on October 1, 2011 at 11:01am

You can deploy creativity not just to solve business problems, but to analytics itself. For instance, I believe that my new random number generator (see is the result of thinking creatively, but NOT analytically.

Finally, too much creativity will cause you problems, be it in the corporate world or academic research. Highly creative and analytic people are better off being entrepreneur (although you will need additional skills - social skills, sales - unless your business involves no human interaction / no client, such as day trading with your own money)

Comment by Jozo Kovac on September 21, 2011 at 2:43pm

Analytics goes with Sales. In consulting business you have to support sales if you want to work on good project.

Otherwise your sales rep. friends can sell nothing or something really bad. 

Comment by Rick Wicklin on September 21, 2011 at 11:26am

Here are some thoughts by Thomas Redman, along with 30+ comments:

Summary: curiosity, persistence, and good communication skills are essential qualities in data analysts.

Comment by Vincent Granville on September 20, 2011 at 9:01pm
Another one: are Sales and Analytics skills incompatible?
Comment by Lee H Thames Jr on September 20, 2011 at 1:00pm
I agree with old saying goes "It takes 5 years to get 5 years of experience"...which also goes with Vincent's comment...
Comment by Rick Wicklin on September 19, 2011 at 11:02am
At last year's JSM, there was a panel discussion titled "The World of Applied Statistics: Where Do You Fit In?" The panel was mostly VPs or Directors of research in government, pharmaceutical, and financial industries. When they were asked was "What qualities do you look for in a new researcher or analyst," the most common response was "creativity."
Comment by Jozo Kovac on September 19, 2011 at 5:44am

"Should analytic people focus on measuring, and nothing else?"

- the art is what does analyst measure and how he interprets the results.

Comment by Jingyi Wei on September 19, 2011 at 12:38am

As an analytic person, I look at data with a "microscope" and get focus on details very easily. But as I spend lots of time with data, I know them and have a better position to "speak for"(interpret) them, which mean I am holding "evidences" of what goes right / wrong with the business. This is a tool in my Business Intelligence toolkit to spot opportunities. To move on and make the opportunities spotting worthwhile, I am acquiring a "better tool" to convince others on "what I have spotted". I know this might not be easy for all the "odd kids in school" and the “convincing tool” might not be the only one I need. But I believe the odd kids will grow up, and I believe I can. (I am just 3 years old in the analytic world after all...  :) )  So I think analytic people should be involved in providing data & creative insights to corporate executives

Comment by Vincent Granville on September 18, 2011 at 9:32pm

The most successful analytic professionals have developed great craftsmanship: that's something in-between science and art, something that you can't possibly learn in a university curriculum. But something not unlike what it takes to be a great cook or a great carpenter.

Great analytic professionals are not just data scientists, they are essentially both data and business architects, at the same time.

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