Hi there, I’m Ben, CEO of Data Literacy and author of the forthcoming book Leading in the Age of Data. I won’t bury the lede: my ebook version of my next book is now available for pre-order on Amazon, and it should be out in early September. Huzzah!
Okay, with that out of the way, please allow me wax somewhat sentimental. Instead of writing a very “corporate-y” announcement blog post, I thought I’d write this one the way I used to write posts at my old and dusty blog, DataRemixed: informal and personal-like.
You see, I want to tell you why I wrote this book. It’s my eighth book, and without a doubt, it’s the most important topic I’ve ever tackled. My hope is that, when it’s all said and done, of all of my books, this one ends up making the biggest impact on people. That’s because it’s written for people who have an enormous influence on our world: leaders. My goal in writing this book has been to help people who are in leadership roles learn how they can set the stage for success with data, whether that’s on their team, within their organization, or at a community or even societal level.
Leaders play a HUGE role in determining whether data is used in a helpful way or in a harmful way. To quote another (albeit fictional) Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.“
Where did this book come from? Well, over the past few years, our clients here at Data Literacy have been asking us for courses for their executives. Sometimes, the people who ask us to do this have a little gleam in their eye when they ask, giving us a knowing little wink 😉 that indicates that they sure wish their leaders were more data-savvy.
The fact is leaders aren’t always as data literate as their organizations need them to be. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. So we have been meeting that need with a variety of approaches and presentations. Sometimes we’ve given their leaders a very high-level overview of our Data Literacy Fundamentals course. Sometimes I’ve delivered a version of our keynote, “Closing the Great Data Literacy Gap.”
All fine and good.
But I always felt something was missing. I wanted to impress upon the leaders in the audience the incredible influence they have for either good or ill. I wanted to share with them the insights we have been gleaning from our Data Literacy Score team-based assessment over the past three and a half years, as we have read through the data-related concerns and frustrations of thousands of employees all over the globe. I wanted to tell them about the leaders I’ve worked for who paved the way for our success with data, and those who actively blocked it, taking us down a much darker path instead, as depicted in this illustration Kelsey O’Donnell created for me back when I first started thinking about this book.
I got the chance to begin writing that very book last November, and I have been at it ever since. Well, not exactly. I set it aside for a couple months last spring to write ChatGPT Basics. Because of that schedule shuffle, Leading in the Age of Data will always be intertwined with the Generative AI boom in my mind. Day 1 of writing “LITAOD” as I refer to it in my files was November 29th, 2022. The day OpenAI launched ChatGPT? November 30th, 2022. So the two have occupied my interest and attention in lock-step with each other, for better or for worse.
No, ChatGPT did not write this book for me. My books will always be written using my own words, just like this blog post. I don’t believe in copy and pasting LLM text into books that have my name on the cover. I did use ChatGPT, however, to research topics that ended up in the book. It’s great for that, as long as you take its output with a serious grain of salt, and fact check everything it tells you. And I also used ChatGPT to turn sections into summaries for social media posts and even for video scripts for the course Data Literacy for Leaders, which we are currently finalizing and preparing to launch as an on-demand offering to complement our other courses.
So thanks ChatGPT! You’re a great writer’s assistant. You’re a pretty damn good writer, too, but I’m far too stubborn to use you for that. 🙂
Lastly, this book is dedicated to two amazing leaders who I have been lucky enough to work with and know: Ellie Fields and Valerie Logan. If you know either of them, then you know why I chose them.
For those of you who don’t know either Ellie or Valerie, I’ll wrap up this blog post with the section from the book’s Preface where I tell you more about them:
“I have dedicated this book to two leaders in the data world whom I have been fortunate enough to know and to work with. The first, Ellie Fields, hired me over a decade ago to run the marketing team for Tableau Public, a free visual analytics platform that has been used by hundreds of thousands of people to date to tell the stories of our time with data. Ellie is the best boss I have ever had. She blends a deep care for the work being done with a sincere interest in the people doing the work. Her leadership changed my life, and it had a massive impact on the data world.
The second leader I’m dedicating this book to, Valerie Logan, is the founder and the mother of the Data Literacy Movement. Her pioneering work at Gartner helped both to uncover and to explain the biggest education gap of our time. And now her work at her own company, The Data Lodge, is helping organizations close that gap with extremely competent counsel and a highly engaged community. Valerie – like my wife, Becky, and I – had the drive and the gumption to walk away from a successful role at a great company to take on an even bigger leadership challenge as the driving force behind an entire movement. Valerie has become a trusted confidant to Becky and me, and a source of inspiration as we tackle the difficulties associated with starting and running a business.
Here’s my hope: that this book encourages more people to do what Ellie and Valerie have done – to step forward and become great leaders in this present age of data. What we need are wise leaders who understand how to use data and how not to use it, and we need leaders who care enough about people and the planet to make sure that data is used for good. If I’m brutally honest with myself and with you, that’s the only way that I’ll want anything to do with data or technology in the decades ahead.”
And with that, I humbly encourage you to pre-order my latest book. If you do, I sincerely hope you get a lot out of it.