A social auditor who brings design to the Netherlands Court of Audit [podcast]

Curious datalovers Ben de Jong and Michel Dekker interviewed me for their podcast ‘Data Voorstellingen1. Because it is in Dutch, I wrote down the key takeaways that came forward during this very pleasant and surprisingly personal conversation.

  • Some people prefer visuals, some prefer text – even 😉 in the audit world. Text and visuals are equally important and deserve the same attention.
  • A Trojan horse approach worked in my context: innovative auditors who know the ins and outs, who know the work culture and can play the long game inside an organization.
  • Dedicated time to innovate is needed when you really want to make a change. Don’t try to innovate next to your regular work, or it will never happen. Our innovative program DOEN (stands for Doing, Discover, Experiment, Network) gave me the time to figure out how to use design in audits.
  • Instead of pursuing objective visuals, I pursue visual integrity. The book Objectivity by Daston & Galison learned me the different historical phases regarding objectivity and how science struggled with visualizing their ‘objective’ knowledge.
  • Quantitative research (data) is in my opinion not more factual/objective than qualitative research. Both involve choices, both need to be traceable, both can be manipulated in visuals and text.
  • Knowledge is not about having the truth but is a starting point to talk about what is needed to make improvements or solve problems.
  • A successful visual consists of goal, story, data and form (David McCandless). Learn more about visuals in audits in the e-learning (go to innovative audit skills) which we created on request of AFROSAI-E (free registration).
  • Consider slow and fast thinking (Daniel Kahneman): who is your audience and what do they need? Not all knowledge benefits from a ‘system 1’, fast-thinking visual. Yet, sometimes you need to invite your fast-paced audience to slow down, grab a cup of coffee, look at the visual for 5 minutes and walk away a lot wiser (Alan Smith).
  • Auditors/researchers want to show all nuances, yet when you want to convince your audience quickly (system 1), you need to make choices and leave information out.
  • Use the visual argument in your audit reports: <this is my finding/conclusion> and this is why <see this visual>.
  • The audit/research world, focussed on knowledge, and the political world, focussed on win-win, should bridge to get the best of both worlds. Not only auditors should adapt the way they work, we should expect politicians as well to walk their side of the bridge.
  • Auditors/researchers should use visuals during their audit – to gain new insights and to get on the same page. And not only to get the message across. Only then you will discover that we think we mean the same thing, but in fact we don’t.
  • The Design Audit Studio stimulates and supports the use of design in audits, in order to increase the impact of our audits.
  • Designers should work with instead of for auditors/researchers. When co-creation is at the base, full benefits will manifest.

Hier kun je de podcast luisteren:

  1. The Dutch word ‘Voorstellingen’ means performances, representations ánd ideas.