Don’t collect data – Connect data
Data comprises raw observations, there is little or no context and a dataset is really only a body of numbers and text that may or may not be significant. Information comprises data with context, processed data, value-added data, and organised data which may or may not be meaningful, and lead to knowledge and ultimately wisdom.
The ‘bridge’ between data and information is therefore critical. If you have inappropriate data you have nothing, and collecting more inappropriate data will not remedy the situation. However, even if you have correct or relevant data, if said data is not processed or organised meaningfully, your conclusions will probably be erroneous.
The nature of the assumptions and hypotheses you use when processing and organising your data will have an immense influence on the deductions, interpretations, and inferences ‘extracted’ from the data, i.e. your ‘information’.
Using dots as an analogy; You need to collect the right dots and ensure that you connect the dots in the most fitting manner possible. Just as it is possible to arrive at different outcomes by connecting the same dots in a different manner, as shown below, it is possible to group the same data in different ways and extract different permutations of information.
Understanding the cause and effect relationships in your data and being able to separate leading and lagging indicators will go a long way to enabling the extraction of meaningful information.