Big Data

Don’t get “Theranosed”

Kaiser FungDon't get "Theranosed" just posted a blog titled “Tip of the day: don’t be Theranosed” where he defines “theranosed” as:

Theranos (v): to spin stories that appeal to data while not presenting any data

To be Theranosed is to fall for scammers who tell stories appealing to data but do not present any actual data. This is worse than story time, in which the storyteller starts out with real data but veers off mid-stream into unsubstantiated froth, hoping you and I got carried away by the narrative flow.

I really liked the definition of being ‘theranosed’, but anyone that’s been around long enough knows that this type of activity has occurred for many years and will continue to occur for many more.  In this particular example, a storyteller uses the appeal of data without actually using data to tell a story that led to a multi-billion dollar company valuation.  The people caught up in the story feel like they are being fed data to help back up the story they are being told and gladly go along with the narrative.

How can you ensure you and your company aren’t “theranosed”?

Well…I’m not sure you can be 100% safe from being spun stories without data, but you can build a culture of curiosity and questioning that almost ensures that at least someone in your company asks the right question and/or sees through the story being spun.

Additionally, you can build a strong data culture within your business.  Understanding how to use data to make decisions and tell stories can help you spot someone trying to “theranose” you. Understanding what it takes to analyze data and build meaningful stories with data will help you see through someone else’s BS  very quickly.

If you teams ask questions and dig into the data, you can be sure that you’ve do everything possible to minimize the possibilities of being “theranosed.”

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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