The Art & Science of Creating Intelligent Data Visualizations w/ @MicoYuk (Episode 14) #DataTalk

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In this week’s #DataTalk, we talked with Mico Yuk about ways to create effective data visualizations.

Here’s a full transcript:

Mike Delgado: Hello, friends. Welcome to our weekly Data Talk. We are talking data science leaders from around the world and I gotta tell you, I am super-hyped about this guest. We’ve been trying to get her on the show for a very, very long time.

Mico Yuk: I’m sorry.

Mike Delgado: Mico Yuk, we’re talking about the art and science of creating intelligent data… I’m sorry, the art and science of creating intelligent data visualizations. And if you haven’t heard of Mico yet, she’s the co-founder and CEO of BI Brainz and the Co-founder of the analytics and fire community and podcast. She’s also the author of the “Data Visualizations for Dummies” book, you can see that in the background. She’s mover, she’s a shaker, a data visualization story teller, popular key note speaker. And if I could speak in emojis, I would have fire emoji, fire emoji, hands up, hands up. I am so excited, Mico, you’re here today. What’s up Mico?

Mico Yuk: I’m good, I’m good, I’m excited to be here. I’m so sorry this took so long. I’m just super excited to be here, thank you for the patience. I love the Experian Data Talk, I was just telling you before, I started binge watching it a few weeks ago and I was pretty impressed.

Mike Delgado: Thank you. Well, it’s an honor to have you with us. So, as you know in every show we always ask our guests, tell us a little bit about your journey that brought you into data science.
Mico Yuk: Okay so, mines is pretty short and sweet. So, just to clarify a few things, I’m actually a recovering data scientist.

Mike Delgado: What? I’ve never heard this.

Mico Yuk: So, the story goes like this, I’ll keep it short. At 23 I came outta college with a computer engineering degree. I then went into a job where I was told I was a senior research analyst, where I sat and did regression and T models in SAS mainframe all day and reported the scores to Forbes, okay? Which were then published in a magazine. And so at that time I was in a department with five people. There was only one other person around my age. Everybody else was about 30, 40 year my senior. I was locked in this office.

Mike Delgado: Wow.

Mico Yuk: Yeah, and then my boss, Logan, made me take PhD statistics classes at night.

Mike Delgado: Oh wow!

Mico Yuk: Yeah. So that’s what data scientist was. No one actually knew what I was doing. So you would go to dinner, hang out and everybody would talk about their jobs. Right? You’re like, yeah, I’m fooling with this and doing that and they would be like, “Mico, what do you do?”. Um, yeah, so I run these models right? And in SAS and no one had ever heard of SAS and so yeah that was interesting. So that lasted for a period and then I fell into this world called BI and the funny part about it is when you start out as a data scientist, your brain is wired to have verification of numbers.

I went to BI and everybody was wired in their gut. So, it was okay to say the number felt wrong, and I went crazy. People were pulling numbers out of Excel sheets like no tomorrow. So I played this kind of, I don’t know what you call it. I went crazy for a little while because I couldn’t understand how people could just fabricate numbers. Right?

And so where I am today is I think I have kind of meshed that foundation that I had with having to verify numbers to a specific point, prove correlation, prove causation right? Because when you’re doing IBM mainframe SAS you’re doing the real thing. There are no hacks. There are so many tools today it’s amazing, right? And then come into BI where people just got analysis numbers, I just, Mike. I was considered a trouble maker.

Mike Delgado: I could tell, I could tell.

Mico Yuk: Because I would ask them, how did you get the number? How did you get it?

Mike Delgado: Good. Yeah, you’re asking the right questions.  Do you still find that happening today; leaders relying on gut instinct?

Mico Yuk: Just, probably a couple. I don’t want to be too clear in my time analysis or I will get fired. Recently, within a time span, I had someone tell me the number feels wrong.

Mike Delgado: What do you say to that?

Mico Yuk: So I tell them numbers don’t get the flu, they don’t have an EQ.

Mike Delgado: I’ve got to remember that, numbers don’t get the flu.

Mico Yuk: They don’t have emotions right, I said human beings do. So I told them, if you don’t like the number then say that, but don’t tell me it feels wrong.

Mike Delgado: Yeah, that’s smart. That’s smart. I think, I run into the same thing, just on the social media side. Everything we do has to be data driven. You have to make decisions based on the data and gut instinct is just opinion. And if you’re just going on your own opinion, gut instinct, like you could be doomed for failure because you have no data to back up what it is you’re doing.

Mico Yuk: You know what I do? So, because we work with big enterprises, you know your Fortune 500? What I have started doing a couple of years ago, is I simply tell them when I get pushed back I go listen. Just for the record, the founders of Blockbuster, they also had a feeling that they were doing well. MySpace felt it was doing well. A matter of fact, Blockbuster felt it was doing well and Barnes and Noble still think they’re doing well. Listen, I mean, we tell apocalypse is real okay? So I tell them, those feelings? They’re not sustainable and they don’t produce results. And so if you’ve done what you’ve always done, right? You’re going to get what you’ve always got. And so that’s the way I sometimes have to explain it and break it down to leaders, without being rude.

Mike Delgado: Yeah, yeah. So tell me about you were obviously doing data science before it was a popular term. You start BI Brains and tell us about that process.

Mico Yuk: So it was interesting. So put it this way, I came out of this data science world per se, but couldn’t leave the brain work behind. So I kind of kept asking the same questions that people in BI were in the custom of answering right? Including dissecting people’s spread sheets and doing things that people weren’t really interested in doing in my role in BI. And then telling people it’s wrong, and then going down into the formula, digging it out, and proving it’s wrong. So I started out as kind of this consultant, I actually at that point was working as a consultant for BusinessObjects, which is owned by SAP now.

Mike Delgado: Oh wow.

Mico Yuk: Yeah, eventually I went, so I started off as kind of having fun with data visualization in the BI world, to becoming the chick that fixed big problems. So I would go into these big companies where literally the would be a war of like “I paid for my data warehouse, I have nothing to show”, make it come out and turn those projects around, and then I would go to the next. And so when SAP acquired BusinessObjects, long story short, they kind of changed the foundation of the community and I had started my own online community at that point and so at that point customers are coming saying “Can you help us, can you support this?”, and between that request and our community is how the company evolved. Now there is a little bit of a joke about that which I tell sometimes, which is when I started my blog, when we started having big companies write us, we thought that they were hackers from Nigeria and Russia.

Mike Delgado: Why? Why is that Mico?

Mico Yuk: She’s laughing, because we were on blogger. I sat down one night as a techie. I used to build web sites at 12:00, put together a blog, and then you’ve got a company like Disney writing you right? And that that point everyone had gotten a Nigerian scam asking you to send money.

Mike Delgado: Yes, I remember that.

Mico Yuk: So if you were emailing me, asking for dashboard help through a little blog on blogger, with bad formatting, what am I supposed to think, right?

Mike Delgado: But  that’s amazing. You start a blog on a whim, then you’re getting contacted by big companies like Disney and you’re like, “there’s no way”.

Mico Yuk: It just never stopped. So eventually most of our lead generation is word of mouth or social media. So our company more evolved out of necessity and need. And our community for a while, this is embarrassing, we didn’t even have a website. Our customers asked us to get a website so they could refer us.

Mike Delgado: This just shows you that you’re doing everything data driven. You’re waiting for the customers to tell you that you need a website. Okay, I got my data, I’ll build one.

Mico Yuk: Yes. And then we developed our own methodology, [inaudible 00:09:15] formula methodology and that methodology is really how I became known globally, going around the world teaching people. I became really, so coming into that world and loving data base, I kept seeing people having problems. Like they would either get too caught up in the data, they would want to create visualizations that were ugly, they created, no one would use it. And I basically got frustrated and I took what I was doing as a consultant, put it into a methodology with all of my templates and that today is the foundation for our company.

Mike Delgado: That’s awesome, wow.

Mico Yuk: Yeah, that’s how BI Brains came to be.

Mike Delgado: That’s beautiful. And now you’re getting asked, I mean you’re so busy. I remember when I first contacted you for the show, like you’re always traveling, you’re speaking, you’re consulting. Tell us about your kind of day to day. What are you up to?

Mico Yuk: So, as we speak, two years ago I wanted to go global, so I decided to open up an office in South Africa, then one in London, then one in the Caribbean. Now that was about a year and a half to two years ago. The last to open up recently, and so what that is, is a very extensive test in sleep deprivation. I’ve had what you call triplets.

Mike Delgado: No kidding.

Mico Yuk: It’s a lot of work.

Mike Delgado: Wait, before you go on, how did you choose those locations, because you’re so data driven minded?

Mico Yuk: Yeah, so first of all I had spoken at all of them for multiple years and kind of garnered a response. We have a very vocal community right? So people sent us what I call “Doctor love letters”, kind of like around the world. So I saw not just the opportunity for growth there, but I really fell in love with the communities to be quite frank. And by the way, those countries that I haven’t said anything to, I don’t want you to write me nasty emails because we have a lot of fans in other countries. It’s not that I skipped those countries.

No, seriously we do, it’s just that those countries to me were some of the most viable right? And also, I was all around the globe hopping, and that also had to slow down a little bit.

Mike Delgado: So, as you consult, as you speak and advise your big global companies on data visualization techniques and better ways of displaying data to tell better data stories, can you kind of a little bit about what you mean by, “Intelligent Data Visualizations.”

I remember when we were emailing back and forth, you were very clear that should be the title. Originally I wrote down “Effective Data Visualizations” and you were like no, no, no, not effective, intelligent. So can you kind of get into that? What you mean?

Mico Yuk: Yeah, the reason I was specific, is because back, probably about 10 years ago, there was this idea that because something was pretty at data-viz, it was all of the sudden great and useful. Remember that era? Oh that looks great, but nobody’s using it. Looks great for the first couple of days right? And so I think what we’ve done today, which is fantastic, is we’ve kind of evolved from this.

And let me address the word effective. Effective is great, but to me it’s too vague. It has too much of a vague understanding. When you say intelligent, it basically depicts the fact that people expect the work to be done for them. When something is intelligent it’s high in value, when it’s effective I feel like I have to do work. And so the premise of “Intelligent Data Visualization”, this is what we teach is one, it needs to give answers, not send people on a fishing trip.

I am really, I’ve been adamant about this for years, before AI became so prevalent. I’ve been telling people, the difference between a data visualization that’s intelligent and one that’s now, is that they guess answers okay? When I look at it, I know what to do. Fast forward to where we are in 2018 with the prevalent and evolution of machine learning AI, it actually can also provide actions that are measurable and outcomes. Right? So have you heard of Insights as a Service, IS?

Mike Delgado: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mico Yuk: So that’s one of the things that I’ve been teaching for years is, we have this kind of four part story board canvas. We use a lot of them in the office, so there is one on the wall. And so we focus on this data story that has your goal, it has your KPI’s, it has your causes and then your actions right? And so one of the things that I’ve been preaching literally for eight year, before it was popular. I’ve said to people, today we do these stories, they are very subjective. So we pull SME’s in a room, based on their experience right? We ask them, “When do you think something happened?”. Right? So they will say “Oh, here, here and here”.

The beautiful thing about things like Insight as a Service, this data modeling is all we can incorporate, not just one type of data which I call computeroholic or resisting data right? But I think they missed that. Most of corporate today has existing data in their data base and HI, people’s intuition, right?

Now you can marry in what I consider to be unstructured data, which is old, it’s caused by the weather, it’s caused by dimmer lights, etc. and you can marry in smart data from outside with an industry, bring that together with real time and get real reasons and results. I’m super-excited about that. That’s what you call intelligent. It’s not what people are seeing, it’s what you need to see that you’re not seeing that is incorporated in to help generate reactions. I’m very passionate about that.

Mike Delgado: How do you deal with, one of the issues that comes up quite a bit is people that are creating data visualizations, trying to tell a story based on again subjective opinion. They have an idea of what the data should be saying, bias creeps in right? Opinion creeps in.

Mico Yuk: Yes.

Mike Delgado: How do you consult people avoid running into those errors?

Mico Yuk: So it’s interesting I think that for immature, let’s deal with immature and mature.

Mike Delgado: Okay.

Mico Yuk: Because we know the maturity in the US in my opinion, again I’m not offending customers. Heavy base of it is sitting where you are, out from the bubble is what I call it right? And outside of the bubble when we deal with corporations, a lot of times we have to engage people’s EQ’s. We simply cannot ignore them.

Because the reality is that I’ve walked into Fortune 20 companies who bought Einstein. Sat in private executive meetings where they’re asking me. Einstein is literally telling my salespeople these customers churn and they will not call them and make complaints. They are like “I don’t understand, we then loose the customer”. I look at them and go “Why didn’t you call, I told you” and they will go “Well, we’ve been working with them for years, just because the system tells me”, right? And so I think what we have is there is a lag between, there is a trust lag right? The system is telling you it’s proven, it’s right. People still aren’t doing it.

So to answer your question around that, I really do think that there has to be a marriage, which is why we try to work with people to engage their HI and incorporate it so that they feel they have ownership, marry that into your HI and I think that is actually where you will get a level of intelligence until their trust builds up, and then you can go full robot on them. The full robot stuff, I’m telling you, when you go into the real world implementation, it’s not that easy. We’re about, I think we’re about a generation away. I think like little niece and they don’t speak English anyway, they speak what I call teenage hieroglyphics.

Mike Delgado: I love these terms, teenage hieroglyphics.

Mico Yuk: Right?

Mike Delgado: This is the hands up emoji.

Mico Yuk: Hands up emoji right? They’re speaking emoji’s and hieroglyphics. They grew up on Snapchat, they’re not going to need licenses. They’re going to get in cars, don’t care if anybody is in the front, right? They’re the generation where “Oh, my phone told me to call, yeah, hello I’m calling you”. But this generation we’re in, there is a past thing that has happened. That’s the truth, the mentality is they’re still scared, there’s a lot of things happening, put it that way.

Mike Delgado: What do you think about like 10-15 years from now, we’ll be in a [crosstalk 00:17:53]

Mico Yuk: I think it’s a generation right after us to be quite frank. I think we’re kind of that cut off and that generation after us is in leadership. Again, it’s not all of them, but it’s a lot of them. They [inaudible 00:18:04] and I think a new generation will be a bit more trusting and I think at minimum was “Alright, what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working so we will try to robot”. But right now, you know you see these stupid headlines “Robots are coming for your jobs, robots are going to take over”. And I always ask people and I say “Listen, because the robot is doing your job doesn’t mean that you can’t do something more intelligent”. Robots can’t overdo their skill set. I hate when they say jobs. It can replace a skill. You have other skills.

Mike Delgado: Yeah, I actually saw this question on Linkedin: “Are you more afraid of artificial intelligence or human intelligence?”.

Mico Yuk: Yeah, I mean the flaw of it. That’s what I’m saying, you know, I love HI and we have it, but it has a lot of flaws. I mean you know, something that people get are “Well, I’ve been working here for 20 years”. Okay, I’m not saying it’s a problem, you’ve got this business hands down. What I’m saying is, your competition, today they are like this, but they simply are going to pass you. The data is talking.

Mike Delgado: Yeah, yeah. So there’s this generation gap. And this next generation that’s coming up, how can leaders today kind of start preparing to shape this new generation of leadership coming up, that’s going to be maybe more data driven, more interacting with thoughts and more comfortable with it?

Mico Yuk: First of all, you can’t have people born in that generation in your high level team trying to create stuff for them. It’s always amazing when you write, I’m going to see your leadership and it looks good, everybody has the same, you know gray hair, it looks great.

And then I always question and go, then I hear things like this “We don’t know how to deal with millennials”. Think about it, millennials right now, they are literally caving down GenX, whatchamacallit, consumer product companies right? They are literally putting them at task. And I always say “Listen, if you want to sell a soda pop to a millennial, you should probably having one here managing that, because they are going to recommend things that you don’t even understand”.

They sound stupid, they’re unconventional and you’re thinking “I’m not going on Snapchat in a Coca-cola suit outside of the office and popping it the sun on Skittles”, right? Boom! Twenty million views viral and all of the sudden everybody is buying the soda, they love it.

Mike Delgado: Yeah, it’s so funny Mico, I was at a conference and one of the panels was how to market to millennials and it was geared for bankers.

Mico Yuk: Who was on the panel?

Mike Delgado: I don’t remember who was on the panel, but I will tell you that the subheading was “We have a real life millennial on the panel”. It was almost like an animal, like a creature in a cage. I was cracking up, I was like, it’s just a person you know?

Mico Yuk: Well, I mean at least they got it right, but that’s what it’s becoming right? And the worst part is that millennials, I’m a millennial. It’s the GenXers that are going to shake them down. These are the kids who are going on Facebook like in their underwear working and they have no filters. No filters.

Mike Delgado: I know, and there’s like the good and the bad that goes with that. You know the good is like the authenticity, the trust, speaking your mind, which can be used for good, but obviously there is also the bad that we see with early Snapchat generation, etc.

Mico Yuk: Yes.

Mike Delgado: But yeah, you’re right.

Mico Yuk: So I think that generation gap Mike, there has to be a passing, but for the ones today, I do feel that there is hope. I just think that we are seeing, you know I keep referring to the retail apocalypse because I track it very closely and I always look at why are certain companies, like Amazon and these companies, they have a department where data is king. They don’t care what people say, if the data doesn’t say it, it doesn’t matter right?

Mike Delgado: That’s right.

Mico Yuk: And that takes a certain, you know, your ego is in the garbage. There’s nothing to do with human beings. So I think that culture has to become a bit prevalent, put it that way.

Mike Delgado: I was going to say, that’s definitely like, you know here at Experian, definitely there has been a huge culture shift, where everything you do at Experian has to be data driven. It’s like you might have an opinion, but you’ve got to back it up with stats, back it up with data, and that’s the way that we are making all of our decisions.

Mico Yuk: But the thing is Mike, and I will say this, there are leaders and I’ve met quite a few and worked with a few who say that. Right? But they say that but then in the leadership, and I’ve sat, you remember I do executive advisory coaching as well.

The leaders are reporting to them will present the data and then add their feeling on it and because that leader doesn’t want to lose that person, they acquiesce. And I see this all the time. I’m sitting down sometimes, texting the CEO like, we talked, I showed you this before we got in here right? And then they will be like, “I hear stuff Mico”. One day you’ll understand right? And then there’ll be this you understand somethings are more important, you can’t lose your troops. And so it’s this choice between those types of battles. I think you get in the middle of progress.

Mike Delgado: And that gets back to what you were saying about the EQ, like when you’re dealing with somebody right?

Mico Yuk: Correct.

Mike Delgado: Understanding the emotions behind decisions that are being made that’s going to impact everything, and then you’re being brought in as consultant to help make some smart decisions to guard the business. But in the background you have emotions and employee politics and all these other things in play that are impacting you know, the advice you’re telling them what you need to do.

Mico Yuk: Yes, yes correct. And one thing as well is interesting from a culture prospective. I always tell people, because people ask a lot. I used to be the data base chick, and I tell them, “Being successful in data base is less about pretty dashboards and more about tapping into people’s EQ”. I did a lot of homework on EQ, a lot. A lot. I told them, I said, if you look at a successful consulting engagement and you’re doing it where it’s like a super success, it’s about 40 to 50% EQ and people management and the rest is actually the work. If you don’t get the first part right, no matter what you produce it’s not going to work. And that’s again where I think in these enterprise cultures, where the evolution of AI has a little bit, it hits a wall sometimes. Because again you have people in generations who are wanting to be involved, wanting to be in control. The minute you pull control, they kind of feel like, “Oh I’m a robot, I’m replaceable”. And what you’re saying is “Listen, because you’re now being told what to do by a smarter system, you’re not replaceable”, right? What it allows you to do is expand your capacity. Expand your value. With that mentality, I’ve seen it a lot is very, it’s not as prevalent in certain groups, I can tell you that.

Mike Delgado: I’m actually excited to add more bots and more AI working with me. Because it’s like, that can free up a lot of menial tasks so that we can be focused on strategy, focused on analyzing the data and it would be great to have AI helping with all those different efforts. I’m actually very excited about the future, we’re not there yet, but I’m excited about where things are headed.

Mico Yuk: Me too.

Mike Delgado: But I totally understand the other side where people are afraid of losing jobs, but like you said, it’s a skill set and as humans we have lots of other skills and for those of those who want to remain in the work force, we have to constantly be evolving and adapting and growing.

Mico Yuk: Correct.

Mike Delgado: It’s like schooling should never end for us.

Mico Yuk: Correct. Listen, I have a little joke to tell you. So right now I’m fascinated with chat bots. I don’t mean to plug them live on here.

Mike Delgado: Go for it.

Mico Yuk: I actually go to three websites and play with the bots.

Mike Delgado: Oh you do?

Mico Yuk: I go to all the time and I try to screw with the bot.

Mike Delgado: Are you finding the good ones?

Mico Yuk: Go to drift. Yeah, do you know what drift is?

Mike Delgado: No, no.

Mico Yuk: Drift is like Intercom on steroids basically.

Mike Delgado: Oh.

Mico Yuk: And that little bot is cute and he’s smart. I try to game him on different, yeah I know, it’s super-geeky, but whatever. He’s smart. I try to game him on different browsers. He’s caught me, oh you’re back. I go to different pages, I’ve been fascinated. I’ve been playing, obviously Intercom is one of the more well known ones. They’re a bit more knowledgy, but drift bot, he’s cute and he’s smart.

Mike Delgado: So Mico, while you’re busy like learning and growing, with the chat bots, I’m playing Fortnite with my son.

Mico Yuk: I know, people think I don’t have a life. Trust me, if you go play with him and you start typing random stuff, he’s very cool. He reminds me of when I got to play with Watson. I got to play Watson.

Mike Delgado: Oh really?

Mico Yuk: One of my friends at IBM wanted to show me how Watson autogenerated with data immediately, so I actually got to go in and kind of type inquires and Watson was outputting the data with the text on the bottom.

Mike Delgado: And how was that experience?

Mico Yuk: It was great. Watson’s smart. When Watson put it out, he also added other context from the internet, immediately.

Mike Delgado: Oh wow, see that’s cool.

Mico Yuk: It’s a toy, [crosstalk 00:28:30]

Mike Delgado: That’s awesome. I’ve had limited time with different bots. There was a bot about a year ago into our office to kind of sell it for like trade shows. Because they were thinking like, if you have this at your trade show booth, it’s kind of cool and innovative. And the bot would quickly scan, you know the ID of the person at the trade show as a potential lead. And would also gather other behavioral information from the person. Like gender, personality type, interest level into certain products. You know, gather kind of like this qualitative data along with quantitative. But those bots are very, very narrow as far as AI, it was like very specific.

Mico Yuk: Yeah, the one I played with for Watson was actually an implementation of the company, it was really well-trained. The model was about 4 years old. It was a smart sucker.

Mike Delgado: Oh wow.

Mico Yuk: I told him, “I don’t want to do canned responses”, they’re like “Go ahead”. So yeah, it was good. And I’ve done a few with NLG, I’ve done a few with audio, so I just speak it in. It produces the audio. I had a start up in Portugal call me to test their NLP one. So I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff. Yeah, I get some interesting calls around the world that’s like, you know, “Come here, see what you think”. Because I think people realize I have that both, end of the BI, analytics and the data science and so I get to see some pretty cool stuff. Very, very cool stuff.

Mike Delgado: I love that. So when we originally posted this chat, our friend who we had on, Brandeis Marshall who is a professor over at Spelman college.

Mico Yuk: Oh nice.

Mike Delgado: She had a question for you: “The data technologies and tools landscape is saturated, for example Hadoop, Spark, Jupyter, etc. What are the one or two technologies to learn proficiently”. What would you say would be important for her students to master when getting out of college?

Mico Yuk: So the interesting part is, I don’t want to time stamp it. I’ll say that before I say this. I will say that one of the more prevalent ones that I think that is interesting is Python. I think the reason why it’s a good one is just because it’s broad. It’s open and there is a lot of community around it. I tend to like coding languages with communities because you can learn so much faster.

So that would be one place that I would highly recommend that people can get their footing in. The only problem with saying that is that I went to the AI show in December and there I met the start up that was doing AI libraries. He’s trying to replace the need to do any coding. So you know this would be dated by when? Soon this will be, he’s after forget the data scientists, pull a financial library, pull out this library and you get moving like your model is built. It doesn’t require. So, that’s what I’m saying. I don’t want to date this too close, but today I think Python is on fire. I’m super impressed with that community.

I like R, I have my personal likes. I like R a lot. She put Hadoop, she put Spark. Not that big of a hype person, because again, I feel like if you get your footing in one that is open and you get the foundation, a lot of these technologies are very similar. You can apply what you’ve learned across multiple. So I think I would stick with Python today.

Mike Delgado: Okay. Another question I have for you for data visualization is what makes you cringe? What types of data visualizations are you like really? Or what are some common mistakes you’ve seen people make with data visualizations?

Mico Yuk: One that absolutely gets my, and I do it in my course, I just pass out.

Mike Delgado: You pass out?

Mico Yuk: I do it in my course, I put something on my screen and it has like a spider chart or a water, like a candle stick chart.

Mike Delgado: I’ve never even heard of a spider chart.

Mico Yuk: You shouldn’t. There’s no reason for it. This is my point. However, in light of being cool, people think oh this looks great. They have no understanding of these types of charts and they throw them on. So I do a couple of sniffs. The first sniff is a chart sniff. This tells me if you’re cool and that’s it, that’s going to be useless. The second sniff is when I see too much green, I irk at green. There’s a problem with using green.

Mike Delgado: Why is that?

Mico Yuk: Because there are RAG colors. There’s your red, amber, green colors and what happens is, you can have the main thing going bad in red and everything else in green and human beings get a sense that everything’s great when it’s not. I hate green, it’s on the record. You know my pet peeves now.

Mike Delgado: Yeah, this is great. That’s very deceiving to see a chart like that.

Mico Yuk: It’s an emotional roller coaster, but let me tell you the truth. We’ve went in, produced data visualizations and we’ve had senior leaders tell us without the green it’s depressing. True story.

Mike Delgado: I believe it, I believe that.

Mico Yuk: Not once. Mico, but everyday it looks like something’s wrong. And I say, well listen, if it was right we wouldn’t be here.

Mike Delgado: Yeah, it’s funny you even say that. Because I manage social media, our dashboards automatically are green and red. It’s just straight up, that’s the way that they’re built, I can’t even change the color of the dashboards.

Mico Yuk: We replace greens with grays. We are very anti-green. I know that sounds really bad, but it gives too much of a false sense of hope.

My third pet peeve in data viz is, I just had it in my mind. It’s the greens, it’s the chart sniff, I want to be cool, is trends. Get beyond the trend. If you want to see me, my team knows me. They see me roll my eyes. I get pretty emotional and dramatic when it comes to data viz.

Show me a dashboard that only shows me what happened and I’m done. Like I just go…. and I’m done. There is actually a term I use in the office. It’s called toilet water colors and toilet water charts and toilet water use. I actually call that, that’s a term I use. I do. I feel that strongly. So when my team is doing stuff, I say “Yeah, that’s a toilet water purple”, “that’s a toilet water chart”. They’re just like “Oh, let me just get that off the screen”.

Mike Delgado: Oh wow, okay, yeah.

Mico Yuk: The reason I say that is, think about it. Most data visualization, if we go on the internet today and we go pull up what’s on there, 98% of them are only showing you what happened. They add no value whatsoever. And that is something. So I started advocating three years ago Mike, people have to get beyond the trend. Get rid of trend lines.

Mike Delgado: You’re schooling me here, because I have created tons of trend charts.

Mico Yuk: Get rid of them.

Mike Delgado: Because you can tell a story and you can like show… but what should we do, for those of us who have been trained to tell the story with a trend line, what should we be more focused on?

Mico Yuk: You should ask me what’s my problem with the trend line.

Mike Delgado: Okay, so what?

Mico Yuk: Okay, so I have problems with trend lines, I have problems when people put these multi-bar charts together where you have two bars. Here’s my issue, when I look at a trend, I have to do analysis. When I look at two bars, all I have to see is the variance right? I always go, instead of making me analyze and give me work, just tell me the answer. I don’t want to analyze and do work. When I teach my workshops, I become the user in the workshop and I warn them. I am the laziest user you’ve ever had. I’m literally a GenXer. If you make me sit down and analyze charts, I’m going to export Excel and I’m gone. And so when I’m teaching I’m helping them to dig into people’s EQ and I’m saying “Don’t give me work, don’t give me work”, those trends are work.

Mike Delgado: That is totally work, it’s a lot of work.

Mico Yuk: Don’t do it. Yeah, I’ve got to see when is it going down, how fast was it going down? And on top of it you’re tapping into my subjective opinion. Just tell me the answer.
Second of all the bigger problem with trends is they show you how you got there. A lot of times they don’t predict two things. Even when people do forecasts, they do forecasts based only on if you don’t change anything. You know what I want to know is two parts, that’s why we teach a story. Now I know how we got here, tell me how to fix it and tell me exactly where I will end up if I fix it. We skip impact, so that whole part is missing and it drives me nuts. That’s why the [inaudible 00:37:54] formula was created. I just got tired of trends. How many dashboard trends can you build?

Mike Delgado: Thousands. Too many, and you’re right. Too time consuming.

Mico Yuk: And remember when you build trends, what you’re doing is you’re incorporating an environment where you are enforcing people to export the data and go into what I call pivot table heaven, Nirvana. Am I lying?

Mike Delgado: That’s right, that’s right and you could spend hours, days, analyzing and telling a story.

Mico Yuk: [crosstalk 00:38:31] a trend that went down, what happened Mike, what happened? Why don’t you tell me what happened? I don’t care if you get…and then the second thing that peeves me, is when people put these things together, and they look at the technical spec. Use things that people understand. Add text, tell me what went wrong, don’t make me go on a fishing trip. So I am very anal about context, very anal about minimal visual, telling what you need to know to get you quickly to action.
I have some very, I need to write another book because I…

Mike Delgado: It sounds like it, yeah it sounds like you need to do that. I love your sniff test. I think that’s a really cool way to approach it. That’s beautiful. So, you’ve schooled me today. I know you’re busy. I want to thank you so much for your time. This has been a fascinating discussion. I have learned a ton. I’m going to try to not make some of these, I’m going to be rethinking every sort of chart that I make. And thinking about, what would Mico say about this chart.

Mico Yuk: Please. Just two things, just remember, give me the answer even if you have to use text. Tell me what happened so I can quickly get to my job. Tell me where I’m going to end up and tell me how to fix it. If we just got some visualizations to focus on that, I think the would of data viz would change. There’s too much hindsight, people are, it’s work. You’ve given me something to go on a fishing trip to China. Every day there are companies that send their whole staff to China and back and don’t realize it and it’s an economy-sized ticket, it’s by the toilet.

Mike Delgado: Mico we’ve got to have you back sometime, I love chatting with you.

Mico Yuk: Thank you

Mike Delgado: Can you talk a little bit about your free webinars that you host?

Mico Yuk: Right now one of the things that we’re doing, there are two things that we do. For people that are interested and see things. If you believe that trends are bad.

Mike Delgado: And you convinced me Mico.

Mico Yuk: If you believe that too many pie charts, too many candle stick charts, I can go through these charts, should make sense anywhere. If you believe that people need to take action, and I’m saying this because if you don’t believe these things, this is where it cuts off, just keep moving okay? … methodology, we both implement it for companies that want help and we also teach it. So we do these free webinars. I will give you the link, off the top of my head I think it’s Or just go to, I’ll give you the link. If they go there there’s actually a free training where I go into depth about how to create the story and I teach them how we get from point A to point B. I did mention in the beginning, we build literally upwards of 600+ data visualizations globally. We are probably closer to one thousand now.

Mike Delgado: Oh wow.

Mico Yuk: Yeah, like I’m pretty…I’ve seen a lot.

Mike Delgado: Oh man. And while you were talking, I made this graph, it’s a sad, it’s a sad pie chart, can you see that? It’s sad Mico.

Mico Yuk: I’m sorry. Go look up candle stick chart and you’ll see. Listen, go look up the spider chart, seriously.
Mike Delgado: That scares me, I’m thinking of webs, I’m just thinking of lots of lines and dots or whatever. Well from now on, I’m going to be asking myself, what would Mico say about this chart? I’m going to be asking myself going forward, you schooled me.

Folks, this is Data Talk. If you want to get links to connect with Mico, we have Experian blog post where this video is hosted. The podcast as well as a full transcription and we will have links to her social profiles and also links to her free webinars. So, you just go to and that is the place where we will have all that and make sure that you, whatever you do, follow Mico on Linkedin. She’s always sharing very helpful content.

Mico Yuk: I love recommending.

Mike Delgado: It’s always pure fire, great stuff. So make sure you connect with her there, follow here there. Mico, thank you so much for your time.

Mico Yuk: Thank you.

Mike Delgado: This has been awesome. I definitely want to have you back because I learned a ton. I know our community is going to be fired up by what you’ve said today.

Mico Yuk: Can we next time focus on audio or language autogenerated data visualizations, maybe we can demo.

Mike Delgado: Oh my gosh, yes, I have no idea what you just said, I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

Mico Yuk: We are going to have some fun, we will put Alexa in front of you, you’ll talk and maybe she’ll produce what you’re saying or maybe if we can get our hands on a headset MIT has where they listen to your thoughts, you don’t have to say anything as you think it, it will autogenerate.

Mike Delgado: Oh my gosh, how cool would that be? I’m in. I’m sold.

Mico Yuk: Thank you guys.

Mike Delgado: Thank you everybody and we’ll see you all next week.

About Mico Yuk

Mico Yuk, Co-Founder/CEO, BI Brainz, Co-Founder of Analytics on Fire Community & Podcast, Founder, BI Dashboard Formula methodology, Author, Data Visualization for Dummies (Wiley), BI Advisor to the Fortune 500, Global Keynote Speaker, Named Top Analytics Blogger, SAP Mentor Alumni, Microsoft PASS Board Advisor, Formerly Founded, Xcelsius Gurus Network & To find out more about Mico, visit

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