I grew up in a bilingual household where we spoke French and English. Many of us who've been exposed to other languages realize that there are some words that just don't translate well into English. One of the words that got used often in our family was the French word gourmand. Its closest translation in English is gluttony, but how often does anybody ever say that word? Probably the simplest way to think of it is the antithesis of gourmet, or even better, someone who prefers quantity over quality.
While there can sometimes be a negative connotation with the phrase, "Il est gourmand," ("He is gourmand"), it can also be just a recognition of someone's preferences.
To this day, even though my French has gotten pretty bad, I still occasionally refer to people as gourmet or gourmand. It could be when I'm sitting in a restaurant, standing behind them in line at Costco or even hearing about their current data initiative.
What is a data gourmet?
Data is to an Information Connoisseur as Food is to a Gourmet Chef
Just like a food gourmet, a data gourmet is someone interested in something distinctive, visually appealing and inspired by results or action taken. It isn't about hordes of numbers or metrics. It's about getting the right metrics in place, putting them in the right context and letting them stand out.
Think of the chef who prepares the meal like the one in the picture. He or she not only wants to stimulate your taste buds, but also hopes that their use of color, plating and white space will appeal to you and your visual senses, as well.
What is your data gourmand?
Prioritize Data Quality Over Data Quantity
So, as I alluded to earlier, not everyone is a gourmet. Many people value quantity over quality. As it relates to data, someone who is a gourmand is probably unsure of what they really want to do with all the data they are requesting. They figure it best to get as much as they can while they can, especially if they aren't sure what they will do with it.
Unfortunately, they probably have never been exposed to a really useful dashboard or visualization. Ultimately, what they think will satiate them and potentially their users is as much data as possible. However, the volume of data would net a number of metrics, charts and gauges, etc. that would be more than they could ever consume.
Working with a Data Gourmand
When you find yourself in a situation where you are working with a data gourmand (and you will - it's just a matter of time), don't look down your well-trained visualization palate at them. Instead, gently guide them along a path of visual-epicurean transformation.
Most likely, they're going to want to load up their dashboard plate with every bit of data junk they can find. Start by getting them to see their dashboard as a blank palette to meet specific goals vs. an empty pallet to load up everything they don't need.
As they select different metrics, invest the extra time to train them to carefully select just the right information that provides the balance their data diet needs for a healthy body. As they make their selections, help them to see that it's okay to have favorite metrics. As Amanda Cox of the New York Times says, "Data isn't like your kids. You don't have to pretend to love them equally."
Finally, if you need some help, refresh your skills with the Juice white paper, "A Guide to Creating Dashboards People Love to Use".
Once you've finished, ask yourself these questions. Does everything in front of your gourmand now have a reason to be there? Did they pause in appreciation or comment that they can't wait to use it? If so, you may be well on your way to executive data-chef status.
Have a data gourmand/gourmet story of your own? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below.