Tag Archives: visual exploration

Visualizing Global Risks 2013

Visualizing Global Risks 2013

A year ago we looked at Global Trends 2025, a 2008 report by the National Intelligence Commission. The 120 page document made surprisingly little use of data visualization, given the well-funded and otherwise very detailed report.

By contrast, at the recent World Economic Forum 2013 in Davos, the Risk Response Network published the eighth edition of its annual Global Risks 2013 report. Its focus on national resilience fits well into the “Resilient Dynamism” theme of this year’s WEF Davos. Here is a good 2 min synopsis of the Global Risks 2013 report.

We will look at the abundant use of data visualization in this work, which is published in print as an 80-page .pdf file. The report links back to the companion website, which offers lots of additional materials (such as videos) and a much more interactive experience (such as the Data Explorer). The website is a great example of the benefits of modern layout, with annotations, footnotes, references and figures broken out in a second column next to the main text.


One of the main ways to understand risks is to quantify it in two dimensions, namely its likelihood and its impact, say on a scale from 1 (min) to 5 (max). Each risk can then be visualized by its position in the square spanned by those two dimensions. Often risk mitigation is prioritized by the product of these two factors. In other words, the further right and/or top a risk, the more important it becomes to prepare for or mitigate it.

This work is based on a comprehensive survey of more than 1000 experts worldwide on a range of 50 risks across 5 broad categories. Each of these categories is assigned a color, which is then used consistently throughout the report. Based on the survey results the report uses some basic visualizations, such as a list of the top 5 risks by likelihood and impact, respectively.

Source for all figures: World Economic Forum (except where noted otherwise)

Source for all figures: World Economic Forum (except where noted otherwise)

When comparing the position of a particular risk in the quadrant with the previous year(s), one can highlight the change. This is similar to what we have done with highlighting position changes in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant on Business Intelligence. Applied to this risk quadrant the report includes a picture like this for each of the five risk categories:


This vector field shows at a glance how many and which risks have grown by how much. The fact that a majority of the 50 risks show sizable moves to the top right is of course a big concern. Note that the graphic does not show the entire square from 1 through 5, just a sub-section, essentially the top-right quadrant.

On a more methodical note, I am not sure whether surveys are a very reliable instrument in identifying the actual risks, probably more the perception of risks. It is quite possible that some unknown risks – such as the unprecedented terrorist attacks in the US on 9/11 – outweigh the ones covered here. That said, the wisdom of crowds tends to be a good instrument at identifying the perception of known risks.

Note the “Severe income disparity” risk near the top-right, related to the phenomenon of economic inequality we have looked at in various posts on this Blog (Inequality and the World Economy or Underestimating Wealth Inequality).

A tabular form of showing the top 5 risks over the last seven consecutive years is given as well: (Click on chart for full-resolution image)


This format provides a feel for the dominance of risk categories (frequency of colors, such as impact of blue = economic risks) and for year over year changes (little change 2012 to 2013). The 2011 column on likelihood marks a bit of an outlier with four of five risks being green (= environmental) after four years without any green risk in the Top 5. I suspect that this was the result of the broad global media coverage after the April 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan, with the resulting tsunami inflicting massive damage and loss of lives as well as the Fukushima nuclear reactor catastrophe. Again, this reinforces my belief that we are looking at perception of risk rather than actual risk.

Another aggregate visualization of the risk landscape comes in the form of a matrix of heat-maps indicating the distribution of survey responses.


The darker the color of the tile, the more often that particular likelihood/impact combination was chosen in the survey. There is a clear positive correlation between likelihood and impact as perceived by the majority of the experts in the survey. From the report:

Still it is interesting to observe how for some risks, particularly technological risks such as critical systems failure, the answers are more distributed than for others – chronic fiscal imbalances are a good example. It appears that there is less agreement among experts over the former and stronger consensus over the latter.

The report includes many more variations on this theme, such as scatterplots of risk perception by year, gender, age, region of residence etc. Another line of analysis concerns the center of gravity, i.e. the degree of systemic connectivity between risks within each category, as well as the movement of those centers year over year.

Another set of interesting visualizations comes from the connections between risks. From the report:



Finally, the survey asked respondents to choose pairs of risks which they think are strongly interconnected. They were asked to pick a minimum of three and maximum of ten such connections.

Putting together all chosen paired connections from all respondents leads to the network diagram presented in Figure 37 – the Risk Interconnection Map. The diagram is constructed so that more connected risks are closer to the centre, while weakly connected risks are further out. The strength of the line depends on how many people had selected that particular combination.

529 different connections were identified by survey respondents out of the theoretical maximum of 1,225 combinations possible. The top selected combinations are shown in Figure 38.

It is also interesting to see which are the most connected risks (see Figure 39) and where the five centres of gravity are located in the network (see Figure 40).

One such center of gravity graph (for geopolitical risks) is shown here:RiskInterconnections

The Risk Interconnection Map puts it all together:


Such fairly complex graphs are more intuitively understood in an interactive format. This is where the online Data Explorer comes in. It is a very powerful instrument to better understand the risk landscape, risk interconnections, risk rankings and national resilience analysis. There are panels to filter, the graphs respond to mouse-overs with more detail and there are ample details to explain the ideas behind the graphs.


There are many more aspects to this report, including the appendices with survey results, national resilience rankings, three global risk scenarios, five X-factor risks, etc. For our purposes here suffice it to say that the use of advanced data visualizations together with online exploration of the data set is a welcome evolution of such public reports. A decade ago no amount of money could have bought the kind of interactive report and analysis tools which are now available for free. The clarity of the risk landscape picture that’s emerging is exciting, although the landscape itself is rather concerning.

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Industrial, Socioeconomic


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Interactive Documents – Roambi Flow

Interactive Documents – Roambi Flow

One year ago I purchased my own iPad 2. When using it in meetings, it quickly became apparent how much potential there is to make presented information much more interactive. I posted last June about Interactive and Visual Information. In the meantime, more and more software is aiming at making documents more interactive, especially on the iPad to leverage mobility and touch.

In this post we will look at Roambi Flow, a product that lets you compose documents with interactive elements. Roambi is a set of business intelligence products by San Diego based company MeLLmo which has been designed from the ground up to take advantage of iOS features such as rich graphics and touch interface. On Roambi’s product website you will find detailed descriptions of each of these products.

Roambi Analytics Views

Roambi Analytics introduced a series of so called Views. Each of these views is interesting in its own and warrants a more in-depth coverage; I’ll just enumerate them briefly.

Blink gives you cube analytics displaying various measures in selected dimensions, swiping and scrolling through a data set.

Cardex is a visual metaphor for organizing sets of elementary reports and visually comparing them side-by-side like a mini comparison dashboard.

CataList lets you browse top-level lists and drill into a detailed view with sliders to see data points over time and display highlighted information.

Elements allows you to compose dashboards of connected, basic chart elements to explore multi-dimensional data.

Layers specializes on the display and navigation of hierarchically grouped data sets – such as continent, country, city – through the use of scroll, pinch and zoom gestures.

PieView is a variation of the Piechart theme. It’s main innovation is to allow the rotation of the entire piechart similar to the original Apple iPod click wheel. (It doesn’t eliminate the shortcomings of piecharts per se, but it makes them a little easier to live with and a lot more fun to explore.)

Squares is using the heat map concept in a very intuitive and easy to use way to display data organized along two main axes – such as the global sales performance of various products in various countries. Dragging along rows or columns highlights them one at a time, tapping on a row or column “explodes” its content to a matrix with more detail – in which one can again navigate, sort, etc.. Tap & Hold on the heat map generates a Fish-Eye view with more detail of the tapped element maximized. Moving while holding will move the fish-eye to areas of interest. (see image below)

SuperList is a generic view for lists with numeric information that allows to sort, filter, toggle between bars and numbers etc. Think of it as a starting point for tabular data display on the iPad.

Fish-Eye view in Squares, one of the Roambi Analytics views

Each view has a Help-style description with a short 1 min video overview in it. This goes to show that seeing these views in narrated action is much more intuitive and easier to understand than just reading about them. It’s literally leveraging some “show & tell”. The best way to explore these views is to download the free Roambi Viewer apps on the iPad and play with them. They come with stored sample data sets so you can visually explore the views even while you are offline. Roambi also features brief videos and tutorials on their website.

But back to Roambi Flow: You want your data to tell stories. This is best done through a combination of text explaining the context, perhaps some multimedia demonstrating the highlights and some interactive elements allowing the reader to visually explore on her own. This is where Roambi Flow comes in. It’s a publishing container that allows you to embed the above views (and other multi-media content) into regular text documents. The reader navigates the content at the top-level like a traditional book, either by clicking on the table of contents or by literally flipping through the pages. The app will even simulate the page turning like we are used to from Apple’s iBooks.

Page transition in Roambi Flow; Note the embedded, interactive element on the next page.

The individual elements can be double-tapped, which expands them to full-screen and then support their full visual exploration capabilities. The views can be linked to backend data sources to automatically stay in sync with up-to-date information. View displays can be bookmarked and shared with others. But the main point really is the fact that the reader does not only see a static image, but can interact and manipulate the views to obtain a richer understanding of the underlying data sets.

Roambi Flow page with two interactive view elements.

Given the rapid adoption of iPads in corporate environments it is straightforward to see such interactive documents spreading both within a company as well as in its external communications. Imagine reading the annual report, the sales pitch or the research paper when you can interact with the financials, the offered product or the proposed scientific model! With interactive content, reading will never be the same.

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Industrial


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