Details Regarding the Future of the Visual Business Intelligence Workshops

This blog entry was written by Nick Desbarats.

As Steve has recently announced, he’s decided to transition away from teaching in the coming months to focus on new projects. After more than 15 years in the field of data visualization and more than 30 in IT, hopefully, we can all find our way to forgiving him for shifting his focus. It seems futile to try to estimate the number of people and organizations that have learned how to understand and communicate their data from Steve, but to say he’s changed the day-to-day practice of data visualization for more people in more ways than anyone else doesn’t strike me as hyperbolic.

While anyone who’s attended one of Steve’s workshops will tell you that it was transformative, I was completely bowled over by the public workshop that I attended in Minneapolis in 2013. My data analysis and visualization work suddenly and unexpectedly collided with my longstanding interest in research findings in the fields of perception, cognition, neuroscience, decision-making, and design. I’d seen and done plenty of public speaking by that point, but the skill with which this potentially esoteric knowledge was explained and the accessible and engaging way in which it was delivered were astonishing. My eyes were opened to the importance of these crucial skills, the absence of which leads to bad decisions that cause untold suffering and waste around the globe every day.

Shortly after attending that workshop, I approached Steve and rather sheepishly asked if he’d ever considered adding a second instructor to teach his courses. Our subsequent conversations quickly veered away from data visualization and into a strikingly wide array of topics, touching on pedagogical research, evolutionary psychology, critical and statistical thinking, organized religion, artificial intelligence, and the nature of science, to name but a few. Seven months and the steepest learning curve I’ve ever experienced later, I began teaching Steve’s courses as on-site group workshops at organizations such as NASA, Bloomberg, and the Central Bank of Tanzania. Seeing lightbulbs go off above more than 1,000 workshop participants’ heads since then has been incredibly gratifying.

As Steve mentioned, I’ll soon begin teaching public workshops in addition to the private workshops and consulting engagements that I’ve been delivering via Perceptual Edge since 2014. I won’t say that I’ll try to fill Steve’s shoes since that would clearly be delusional, however, I will say that I’ll bring the same drive to increase data analysis and communication competence in the world to this work. Specifically, the following changes will occur on January 1st, 2018:

  • The Show Me the Numbers, Information Dashboard Design, and Now You See It courses will be offered via my new consultancy, Practical Reporting Inc., the website for which will be launched this summer and announced on this blog. The content of these courses will remain the same aside from some updating and minor tweaking, and Steve’s books will continue to be provided to all workshop participants.
  • Public workshops will continue to be offered in the U.S. and internationally. Public workshop locations, dates and registration links will be posted on the Practical Reporting website.
  • I’ll continue to deliver dashboard design consulting services and private, on-site training workshops for groups of 30 to 70 participants. These services will start being offered through Practical Reporting instead of Perceptual Edge.
  • I’ll continue to write about data visualization, dashboard design, and other topics, but will begin to do so on the Practical Reporting blog following its launch. I’ll also be soliciting feedback on sections of a new book on which I’m working that proposes a blueprint for organizing and designing whole data presentation systems that include dashboards, as well as other types of information displays, such as lookup displays and self-serve analysis displays.

Being mentored by Steve has been a unique and life-changing experience for which I will always be grateful, and his friendship is one that I’ll continue to hold dear. Teaching his workshops is an awesome responsibility, but it’s one that I relish. I hope you’ll join me as I take the torch from Steve and continue to teach his courses, courses that I found so transformative and insightful back when he first taught them to me.


9 Comments on “Details Regarding the Future of the Visual Business Intelligence Workshops”

By Vincent Williams. June 2nd, 2017 at 10:20 am

It’s great someone will be picking up the torch, good luck and i hope to attend one, one day.

By Jim Linnehan. June 2nd, 2017 at 7:38 pm

Congratulations to both of you. It may be early to say this, but I’m hoping that we’ll see Nick offer courses in Boston.

By Jonathon Carrell. June 2nd, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Given the same commitment to sound design, I have little doubt that you will be successful in this new role.

Best wishes.

By Nick Desbarats. June 3rd, 2017 at 6:18 am

Thanks for the kind words, Vincent, Jim, Jonathon.

By Dean Meyers. June 12th, 2017 at 11:24 am

Having taken Steve’s course and spending a short evening with him to discuss just a few of the wide topic you mention, I am happy for you (as his mentoring was, I am sure, exquisite, enlightening and inspiring). I am also sure he would not pass the reigns to anyone he would not consider completely competent in taking on his wish to do good through his teaching, and am looking forward to seeing your new website, and gaining insight from you as well. All best in this new journey for you and for Steve, and I am particularly interested in seeing the new book appear, when you are ready.

By Jase Wells. June 12th, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Hello again Steve. Thank you very much for your time in March in London, it was great to see you at last, very much enjoyed the workshops. I am sure you will appreciate more time at home, I know I do! It is great to see how much everyone values your teachings around the world. Be good and stay out of trouble!

By Nick Desbarats. June 12th, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Dean.

By Terry Hayden. June 14th, 2017 at 7:44 am

I look forward to reading your blog and book. Thanks for taking on the voice of reason in the data visualization realm.

By Nick Desbarats. June 14th, 2017 at 8:38 am

Thanks, Terry. Note that Steve is only transitioning away from teaching workshops, though, and will likely continue to make his voice heard in the data visualization field.

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