Future Plans for the Visual Business Intelligence Workshops with Stephen Few

Altis Consulting have been proud training partners of Perceptual Edge and Stephen Few since 2010. Over the years, we have hosted over 20 workshops, teaching upwards of 1,100 students.

Stephen has decided that it is time for him to take a step back from teaching, and has passed the torch to his colleague Nick Desbarats who will continue to publicly deliver the Visual Business Intelligence workshops around the world.

“Since founding Perceptual Edge back in 2003, I’ve put in an enormous number of miles on airplanes. I’ve made most of these flights to teach workshops. After 14 years of this, I’m sure you’ll understand when I say that I’m weary of travel.

I’m leading up to some news. I will only be teaching two more of my Visual Business Intelligence Workshops. This work is no less important than when I began, but I’m now ready to focus my efforts differently and to spend more of my time close to home.

When I began this venture, data visualization was not well known, but that would soon change. I helped to build data visualization into the popular field of study and work that it is today, but with popularity has come an incursion of nonsense and bad practices. I trust that the tide will shift in time, but I’ve done my part as an educator and will now leave it to others to carry on this important work.

My workshops will continue, just not with my direct involvement. Nick Desbarats, who has been teaching my courses privately for the last few years, will begin teaching my courses in public workshops as well through his own company, Practical Reporting.

Now that little of my time will be dedicated to teaching and travel, I’ll be shifting the focus of my work to more research and writing. I have several projects that have been waiting in the wings for uninterrupted time to become available. I’m thrilled that this time is finally at hand.”

-Stephen Few

Altis will continue to bring you these Visual Business Intelligence workshops, the next of which will be held in March 2018 in Melbourne.  For more information and registration please click here.

Nick Desbarats has shared his thoughts on the transition below.

“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.

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.”

-Nick Desbarats

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