Google launched a new tool in labs called Google Correlate. It allows you to track how well a time series of data correlates with specific search terms in Google.
For example, a marketer could run a time series of when their advertisement showed on TV , then see if it impacted the search volume for terms associated with their product. They could then correlate that against actual sales volume to see how much of the advertising was spent educating people vs driving sales.
It can also be used to create all sorts of nonsense.
For example, I ran a time series of the daily close of the S&P 500 stock index. The most tightly correlated search term was “Microsoft clip art.” Correlation is definitely not causation. I then ran it with a lag, groping for a theory on the relation between putting together PowerPoint presentations and bullish sentiment. Alas, also nonsense (plus the minimum lag is one week, which is too large for daily closes).
To use the tool properly, you need a Theory of Search as it relates to whatever subject matter you’re studying. The theory is what ties together the data.
Knowing that one side of the data set is always going to be search terms, as a general principle you could say that Google Correlate is best used for tracking the spread of ideas among people who use Google.
The data can be powerful or it can be more noise in an otherwise clear analysis. It all depends on the theory, the framework, the context in which the data lives.
Bringing this around to daily work life, we create and receive a lot of information every day about the work we do and project’s in which we’re involved. To be helpful, that information needs to live in a theory, in a framework, about work.
Without a theory, without a framework, all the data generated (in meetings, reports and project management tools) can fast become noise. The good news is that there is a theory of work -it is easily accessible and doesn’t require a Ph.D. to understand.
Project management is a Theory of Work.
Project management is a framework of how people work together on projects and expend resources to achieve a particular goal. It explains what data to monitor and how to use that information to improve processes.
Use project management as a skeleton on which to hang your information and as a guide to determine what information you need. You can accelerate your understanding of how to get things done more efficiently (and maybe even cut out some unnecessary meetings).