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There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question

Questions are the bedrock of human civilization. Ever since Homo Erectus first emerged we’ve been questioning the world around us; can I eat this? What’s that thing with all the teeth hurtling towards me? What is the meaning of life? – and so on. While only one of those has been definitively answered (42 being the meaning of life, of course), human beings’ indefatigable desire to learn and better themselves has been the cornerstone of our development. This has, inevitably, led to some stupid questions being asked along the way – like the first person to ask if pineapple should go on pizza.

Often, the questions people think are too stupid to ask are the very ones that are most important to ask. Seemingly stupid, or simple, questions can be the ones that subvert the status quo or revolutionise how people think about the world around them. These questions are being celebrated this week on Twitter with the hashtags #AskAStupidQuestionDay and #NoStupidQuestions – it’s an opportunity for people to question the things they’ve been too afraid to until now. Here at The Data Lab we don’t believe that any questions are stupid. Our four core values are to innovate, grow, support and respect – we want to encourage inquisitive minds rather than shoot them down.

Data and artificial intelligence are exceptionally important aspects of modern life, and in particular modern business, but they’re fairly niche skillsets – it’s not unusual to find yourself confused by the nomenclature and acronyms, or even just about the impact they might have on your life.

Here are some excellent questions we have fielded over the years and how we answered them. If you have a question you’d like to ask just get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.

The DataLab team at DataFest
Interesting questions being asked and answered by the DataLab team

What exactly do you do?

The Data Lab is one of seven ‘innovation centres’ in Scotland. Our mission is to help Scotland maximise value from data and artificial intelligence. We achieve this by fuelling innovation through collaboration, building skills and growing talent, and strengthening Scotland’s thriving data science community. So whether it’s introducing organisations to the data scientists who will help grow their operations, supporting our MSc students, helping people retrain for data skills, or hosting and attending events around the country, we’re in the business of helping people get the most from data and AI.

You’re a part of Edinburgh Uni, right?

We are part of the network of Scottish Innovation Centres. Each centre is administered by a Scottish university; our home is Edinburgh, with our main office at the Bayes Centre. However, we work across all Scottish universities, industry, public and third sector with offices also in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness.

We’re a public sector organisation, can you help us?

We absolutely can – around 20% of our collaborative innovation projects are with the public sector and our data science team have a wealth of experience delivering public sector data projects. Feel free to get in touch to find out how we can help you harness your data.

I want to hire a Data Scientist but I have no idea where to begin, can you help?

You bet we can. To date we’ve had over 400 MSc students come through our post graduate programmes and we have facilitated 25 industrial doctorates. Our network of highly skilled data scientists is unparalleled, so we’ll surely be able to help you in your quest to find the right person for your team. We also facilitate executive training if you want to upskill your existing team.

Is it too late for me to change my career and get into data science?

It’s never too late! Data is only going to get more and more important and now is a great time to redirect your career towards its management and understanding. If you’d like to chat about retraining to pursue a career in data or AI just get in touch and we’ll help you find the best solution for you.

We have a data strategy but we’re not sure how to implement it – what do we do?

Having a strategy for your data is a fantastic first step, but where to go from there can be tricky. We have loads of experience assisting organisations turn their data strategy into an actionable plan – whether that’s through training of staff, connecting you to the right people, or helping you identify the right resources. Our Torch service aims to enable businesses, who have developed a data strategy, to find the right data methods and technologies for them through engagement with The Data Lab experts and specialist supplier organisations. Get in touch to find out how Torch can help.

We’d like to use our data more effectively but we don’t think we have enough, is that true?

There’s no such thing as too much or too little data. If you’re handling any data whatsoever (which 99.9% of businesses will be) it’s a good idea to make sure you have a robust and practical data strategy in place. Whatever stage your organisation is at you’ll have data you can harness – it’s just a question of how you want to do that. Here at The Data Lab we’re dedicated to making sure Scotland is deriving as much value as possible from data and artificial intelligence and we’re passionate about helping people achieve that on any scale.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask us about who we are, what we do, data, artificial intelligence, or anything in between, we’d love to talk to you. Just drop us an email and we’ll make sure the right people get in touch. The only stupid question is one that goes unasked.

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