After every meetup, networking event or presentation I attend on analytics, the question often asked is what tool you use and why. A valid question, as new tools enable us to progress faster and easier in the field of analytics. However, the conversation quickly goes from which tool do you use, to an identity crisis and heated debate. Admit it, we’ve all sat through an awkward conversation of two people discussing why their tool/language is superior.
I get the opportunity to teach people new tools and methods and have started to see a pattern emerge with those who are resistant to a new tool.
Previously, I have excused this resistance as a fear to learn something new or adapt to change, but I think this is an easy answer we like to use for anyone who is resistant to change.
Where this fear steams from is the difference between knowing a process and knowing theory. If you know a process you are bound to the tool you use and the process of how you do your job. If you know the theory behind what you do, you are not bound by any tool and can apply your knowledge to a myriad of tools.
For example, let’s say you are a baker and the way you learned to make bread was by measuring out the ingredients you need, kneading the dough, and baking it over a fire. Now let’s say you been given an electric mixer and an electric oven. If you learned that making bread takes a certain ratio of ingredients such as flour, liquid, yeast etc., along with blending these ingredients together and applying heat in order for the chemicals to take effect, then you will easily be able to apply your knowledge of bread making to your new tool set.
However, if your only concept of making bread is the measuring out the ingredients, kneading the dough and cooking it over a fire, you may have a harder time adapting, and therefore might need someone to review with you how to operate your new tools and create a new process for bread making with it. By learning the core concept and theory of bread making though, the fundamentals of making bread stay the same and your adaptation will be much quicker.
This same example applies to the tools and languages we use for analysis. We need to shift our focus from teaching tools and processes to teaching theories and methodologies. This allows individuals to think for themselves and be more adaptable. Tools and languages will always evolve and new ones will come out to replace the old ones, so let’s help those that we are training by teaching them the method behind what they are doing rather than a tool.