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Striking the Balance: Baseball Scoreboards, Dashboards, and Data Presentation

Ever had the pleasure of staring up at a scoreboard at a major league baseball game? I had a firsthand experience a few weeks ago when I took my kids to a Red Sox game at the historic Fenway Park. I'm a Blue Jays fan, mind you, but irrespective of your team loyalties, you can't deny the thrill of being in such a legendary stadium.

Striking the Balance: Baseball Scoreboards, Dashboards, and Data Presentation

The thing that stood out to me amidst the buzz of the game wasn’t the electrifying home run or the sharpness of the fielding - it was the dizzying array of stats splashed across the massive scoreboard. ERA, WHIP, OBS, BB, mound visits - it was a full-blown baseball-nerd paradise. But my kids kept squinting up at the screen and asking, “Dad, what’s the score?”

It hit me then - amidst the sea of numbers, the most crucial metric, the score, was surprisingly hard to spot. It made me wonder, do all these stats, important though they may be to die-hard fans, deserve the real estate they’ve been given? Especially when you’re playing host to such a diverse crowd.

So, what’s my point, you ask? Well, it got me thinking about how we design dashboards and present data, especially to diverse audiences.

Consider your business dashboard. It’s the equivalent of the baseball scoreboard - the go-to place for quick insight into how things are shaping up. But, like the baseball game’s fanbase, your audience might be mixed - team members, executives, clients. Each group has different needs and varying degrees of familiarity with the data. So, the information you present and how you present it matters a lot.

First, let’s talk about labeling. Just as the stats on the baseball scoreboard had me explaining ERA and WHIP to my curious ten-year-old, the labels on your dashboard need to be clear and understandable. Think “New Customer Sign-ups” instead of “NCS”.

Secondly, prioritize your north-star metrics. These are the measures that align most directly with your strategic goals - like, say, the game’s score. No matter how interesting your lesser metrics might be, your north-star metric should stand out. Don’t let the minutiae distract from the big picture.

Let’s take an example. If you run an e-commerce business, your north-star metric might be daily sales. So, while it’s interesting to see the number of site visitors or abandoned carts, these shouldn’t overshadow the main metric. The daily sales number should be the most eye-catching, easy-to-spot data point on your dashboard.

This philosophy of presenting data applies anywhere we’re trying to communicate complex information. Be it a baseball stadium or a board meeting, our aim should be to engage and inform our audience. We don’t want to discourage our future fans (or business leaders) by overwhelming them with data they don’t understand.

In the end, it’s all about striking the right balance. We can cater to the baseball nerds (and data geeks) among us without alienating those who just want to enjoy the game (or understand their business’ performance). And that’s the real home run.

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Michael Lieberman
Michael Lieberman  Co-founder @ Lassoo. Startup guy with multiple exits with a love for product and marketing.