REVIEW: Be Data Driven by Jordan Morrow

Following up on his first book, which considered data from the individual level, Jordan Morrow’s Be Data Driven looks at harnessing the power of data from the organizational perspective in this practical and easily digestible book.

As much more of a data visualization hobbyist than working professional, it’s not uncommon for longer-form data content to go over my head or fail to make a meaningful impact. This was not the case for Be Data Driven. As someone who comes from an organizational and executive communications world, this book combined both the importance of data literacy and the influence it has on a larger scale within relatable applications.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Jordan Morrow to gain insights as to how this book came to be, what its goals are now that the book is out, and what the future might look like for his continuing efforts to increase data literacy and encourage being data driven.

“This book was formed from the impetus of companies wanting to be ‘data driven’ while developing this seemingly ambiguous and nebulous term.”

While the world’s technology has advanced and grown tremendously in the past few decades, more so recently, with COVID-19 being a strong contributing factor, we are seeing a drastic surge in the use of data from an individual and corporate standpoint. Morrow paints the picture of what an effective data-driven workforce could look like while going into the core foundations of data strategy and literacy in just the first chapter. These core concepts are expanded upon throughout the rest of Part One. Readers are informed of the impact COVID-19 had on data within organizations, the roles and tools of being data driven, and how all of these elements meld together to form a true data-driven company. 

Where tools and technology are only alluded to in Part One, they are further explained in-depth in Part Two, where Morrow goes into the current foundational skills gap which exists between companies and the data they are trying to uncover and utilize. Often, organizations purchase tools and technologies with the intention of using them to drive strategy. In turn, those tools and technologies are force-fitted to the employee base and unsuccessfully adopted. With this in mind, Morrow spends the remainder of Part Two detailing the biggest missteps often made by organizations in their goal of being data-driven; including the pillars of an organizational data strategy, the gap in leadership, and looking at what Morrow claims to be the biggest hurdle: culture. The section on culture is the one Morrow expressed to me as his personal critical takeaway for readers, “we become so enamored in data analytics when the linchpin, the key to success, is the people.”

In Part Three, the final section of the book, Morrow takes the lessons learned from foundation building and organizational data gaps, and applies them to how readers can effectively build a data-driven organization. One key thing Morrow does in this final part is provide an abridged retelling of each chapter and how they all work together to build a data-driven organization. Breaking these chapters down once again and providing clear instructions on next steps is one of the many things Morrow does which makes this book easily digestible. Providing this information in such a clear, concise, and actionable format allows this book to be read as a guide much more than a text or reference book. Where many data books fill pages with visualizations, hoping to provide context for a reader who may have been bogged down in the over-complicated text of the chapter, Morrow allows the writing to speak for itself and provide context in a way which is not often found in books of this genre. As a result, this book is an enjoyable and insightful read.

“So often, people become enamored with STEM backgrounds and people who don’t come from that STEM background don’t feel like they have a seat at the table.”

As I mentioned earlier, I do not come from a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) background, but rather a social sciences background. In our conversation, Morrow talked about how data literacy for all, not just those in STEM, is key to larger success. “Everyone is data literate to an extent,” Morrow further explained. “To me, data literacy is paramount to everybody, because we just live in this data-driven world. But it doesn’t mean everybody needs to become a technical practitioner of data and analytics. I want people who might not be data and analytics professionals to just develop confidence and a comfort in using data to help them in their decision making.”

Morrow’s sentiment of ensuring everyone feels like they have a seat at the table, regardless of their background, is evident throughout his book. While Morrow doesn’t shy away from touching on more complex data topics, he doesn’t presume readers know everything on the topic prior to cracking open the book, nor does he speak about data in a way which comes off as gatekeeping from those who are not already in the field.

“Where I want my work to continue is around a holistic approach to data and analytics, the strategies around it, and how that ties to business.”

If you’re wondering where to start with Morrow’s work, whether it be with his first book, Be Data Literate: The Data Literacy Skills Everyone Needs To Succeed or this one, Morrow answers this question for you. “Utilize the two books together. Data literacy is necessary to be data driven and for an organization to succeed. We have to put practical solutions in place. Utilizing the books together will help you build your plan, build your strategy, and to drive it.”

You can purchase Be Data Driven from the publisher’s site, Amazon, or wherever you like to buy your books. Morrow plans to release his upcoming book on the four levels of analytics in May 2023.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Will Careri is the Managing Editor of Nightingale. Throughout his career, Will has been a trusted advisor and practitioner of public relations, marketing and design for brands all over the world.