Data: Fact or Fiction? Take a look at Bonnie Beresford’s 60-Minute Session


Bonnie BeresfordThere is much buzz around “big data.”  Used well, data can offer powerful insights.  Used hastily – or naively – it can be misinterpreted and lead to bad decisions.  Rich with examples, this session helps attendees become better – and more critical — consumers of data.  The session explores the “other factors” that influence performance outcomes … factors that must be considered when interpreting the data around the impact of HPT investments.

This session uses real examples of data representations that, if taken at face value, can lead to incorrect conclusions.  Based on examples from my years of learning and experience with hundreds of clients, attendees will experience several ah-ha moments as they become better consumers of data — especially data that attempts to show the impact of HPT interventions.

The session begins by critiquing some beloved USA TODAY infographics.  We explore why we love them – and why we should not take them at face value.  We will then shift to the measurement of HPT interventions and how causation can be erroneously assumed.  We next investigate variables that need to be considered in the analysis and interpretation of HPT measurement data: selection bias, demographic factors, organizational environment, time-related events, and other metrics.

The format is highly interactive with participants working as table teams (or in pairs, based on room setup). Following the introduction of a concept (i.e., selection bias), teams will review a business scenario and resulting data representations (tables and graphs).  Based on the teachings, they will apply a critical eye to what is being represented to:

  1. Interpret the presented findings
  2. Question the presented findings
  3. Specify what else they would need to know before trusting and taking action on the data

While this session is about interpreting data, there are other skills necessary for using data to make informed decisions.  This includes figuring out WHAT to measure and HOW to be visualize the findings.  The following readings may be helpful to professionals interested in rigorous evaluation and leveraging data to tell a story.


Evergreen, S. (2017). Effective data visualization: The right chart for the right data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hubbard, D. (2010). How to measure anything: Finding the value of intangibles in business. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.

Pease, G., Beresford, B., & Walker, L. (2014). Developing human capital: Using analytics to plan and optimize your learning and development investments. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.