Once or twice she had peeped at the computer screens of data her sister was looking at, but the screens had no pictures or conversations in them, "and what is the use of data," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"

Anaximaps is a process that helps data analysts see inside the minds of healthcare managers and clinicians. By using pictures and conversations, Anaximaps generates data that is accurate, meaningful and useful.

Anaximap drawn by Tracey Gillies on 18 March 2016

Anaximaps starts with a conversation between a number-cruncher and a healthcare professional, and—as part of that conversation—a map gets drawn, a sketch on a sketchpad that becomes a physical artefact the analyst takes away with them.

Back at their desk, the analyst applies a set of analysis tools (borrowed from urban architecture) to the sketched map. These tools provide direction and purpose to the way the data is analysed and presented.

The revamped data is then fed back to the healthcare professional and the dialogue can then continue and develop.

It's a simple idea. And it's an audacious idea. The notion that we can "solve" the data element of our decision-making process using a method that involves sketch pads, felt tip pens and a video camera is one that's alien to most health and social care managers, never mind data analysts. But we think this method works, and whenever we've tried it in a real life setting, we've had positive feedback from the people we've worked with.

Anaximaps is a new thing. We're still talking to people about it. We're still developing it. We're still road-testing it. But we'll post news of these developments on the Anaximaps website as and when they occur.

30 September 2016