Mastering the Art of Simplifying and Visualizing Data​: Insights from Uppsala’s Hans Rosling

Today, I want to share with you the story of a remarkable individual who was born in the same city of Uppsala where I live and work and who has had a profound impact on my approach to managing crises: Hans Rosling. As a statistician and public health expert, Rosling was a master at simplifying complex data and ideas, making them accessible to a wide audience. He was particularly talented at creating visual representations of complex data, which is crucial for crisis managers to create situational pictures.

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But what really struck me about Rosling was his unwavering optimism in the face of crisis. Despite working in some of the most challenging and dire situations, he never lost faith in humanity’s ability to overcome adversity. His message of hope and resilience is more important now than ever before.

As crisis managers, we face a constant barrage of information, much of it complex and difficult to make sense of. But by following in Hans Rosling’s footsteps, we can learn to distill that information into clear and concise visuals, creating situational pictures that help us make informed decisions and take effective action.

So, let us take inspiration from Hans Rosling’s example and strive to approach every challenge with a positive and proactive mindset.

“Beware of simple ideas and simple solutions. History is full of visionaries who used simple utopian visions to justify terrible actions. Welcome complexity. Combine ideas. Compromise.” — Hans Rosling

So, what can crisis managers learn from Rosling?

Hans Rosling was a visionary in the world of data analysis and information visualization. Through his work, Rosling sought to help us better understand the complexities of our world, and to challenge the misconceptions that often drive our decision-making. However, his teachings extend far beyond simply interpreting data. Crisis managers, in particular, can learn a great deal from Rosling’s approach. Here are five key lessons that they can take away:

  • ➡️Simplification is key: In a crisis situation, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the information and data that is coming at us. By simplifying the situation and breaking it down into smaller pieces, we can make it much easier to manage and respond to. For example, by identifying the most pressing issues and focusing on them first, crisis managers can work to get things under control more quickly.
  • 🏖️Keep calm and focused: Another key success factor that Rosling emphasized was the importance of staying calm and focused under pressure. In a crisis, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment, but it’s important to keep a clear head and stay focused on the task at hand. By remaining calm and collected, crisis managers can make better decisions and guide their teams more effectively.
  • 💻Use data to inform decisions: Rosling was a master at using data to tell stories and inform decisions. In a crisis situation, having access to accurate and timely information is crucial. By collecting and analyzing data on the crisis, crisis managers can make better decisions and respond more effectively.

“Hammers and nails. If you are good with a tool, you may want to use it too often. If you have analyzed a problem in depth, you can end up exaggerating the importance of that problem or of your solution. Remember that no one tool is good for everything. If your favorite idea is a hammer, look for colleagues with screwdrivers, wrenches, and tape measures. Be open to ideas from other fields.” Hans Rosling

  • 📣Communicate effectively: Rosling also stressed the importance of effective communication. In a crisis situation, it’s crucial to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with all relevant parties, including employees, customers, and the media. By keeping all parties informed and up-to-date, crisis managers can help to manage expectations and prevent panic from spreading.

“Remember: things can be bad, and getting better.” Hans Rosling

  • 💡Embrace innovation: Finally, Rosling was always pushing the boundaries of what was possible with data and information visualization. Crisis managers can also benefit from embracing innovation and seeking out new technologies and approaches to crisis management. By being willing to try new things and take risks, crisis managers can stay ahead of the curve and respond more effectively to future crises.

In conclusion, crisis managers can learn a great deal from Hans Rosling’s approach to data analysis and information visualization. By simplifying complex situations, remaining calm and focused under pressure, using data to inform decisions, communicating effectively, and embracing innovation, crisis managers can better respond to crises and help to protect their organizations and communities.

As you reflect on these five key points, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can I improve my visualization of the situational picture in the crisis room, regardless of whether it is digital, hybrid, or physical?
  • How can I simplify complex situations in order to better manage them?
  • What strategies can I use to stay calm and focused under pressure?

Well folks, that’s all for now! As someone from the same city as Hans Rosling, I can only hope that some of his brilliance has rubbed off on me. But if not, I’ll settle for just being able to solve a Rubik’s cube. See you next time!

➡️Comment on the impact Rosling had on you👇