Much of my consulting work (the work within the work, so to speak) involves collecting, editing and showcasing information. The more successful the project, the more likely each of these processes has been well planned and executed, even if they are only underlying activities within the project.
Gather information relevant to the question at hand. Understand the context, obtain qualitative and quantitative data (note: the most challenging step in data analysis is usually getting the data) and review opinions from a wide range of sources. Consider the source of the source. Compare to prior experiences, existing knowledge and recent trends. Begin to analyze and fill in gaps.
Perform analysis iterations using an appropriate framework. Understand the evolving conclusions and messages. Prioritize and conduct further research. Focus on conciseness and eliminate non-essential information. Determine whether this is a crisis and the appropriate level of response. Editing is the most neglected of the three processes, and similar to the study of history, it’s easy to forget the biases influencing the facts.
“The study of ancient history is as much about how we know as what we know, an engagement with all the processes of selection, constructive blindness, revolutionary reinterpretation and willful misinterpretation that together produces ‘the facts’…out of the messy, confusing, and contradictory evidence that survives.” –Mary Beard
Package and share the findings. Tailor the form, frequency and mode of communication to the important of the message and the intended audience. Establish or connect to existing mechanisms in order to archive and sustain the material.
When done well, these processes logically connect to a structured outcome, one that can be traced back and forth in the sequence. It also brings an awareness that when you receive a message, you’re usually only seeing one part of the showcase process.