Mastering the art of data storytelling
Numerical data is at the heart of corporate life. But it doesn’t always have the expected impact, as our brains struggle to fully understand it. How can we present our numbers in a way that makes them more engaging?
Numerical data is at the heart of corporate life. Whether to gain approval for a strategic project, to laud the performances of a new product, or to mobilize a team, we generally seek to rely on quantitative data—first to conduct a rigorous analysis, then to support our arguments.
And yet, despite the seriousness with which a case or speech has been prepared, our key figures are not always as compelling as we had hoped they would be. A source of incomprehension, or even of frustration: “But the numbers speak for themselves! It takes some real bad faith to not see the reality!”
However, the good will of the audience is not in question. Neuroscience and cognitive psychology studies show that numbers do not actually “speak” to us all that much. Our brains struggle to assess them, to visualize them, to memorize them… and most of all to give them meaning. A raw number therefore has little chance of triggering a reaction. On the contrary, it needs to be put on stage and in narrative. One law school professor quoted in Making Numbers Count tested two options to motivate his first-year students: presenting a striking statistic (“One third of students fail their first year”) or introducing the number in anecdotal form (“Look at the person to your right, then look at the person to your left. Next year, one of the three of you will be gone”). This experiment showed that the second approach had considerably more effect.
This professor used the fundamentals of a skill that has become essential to exercising leadership, i. e. data storytelling. In the age of Big Data and of digital everything, the ability to translate data for diverse audiences, to give it meaning through a narrative, is now crucial to convincing and mobilizing.
In this synopsis:
– To make numbers speak, be selective
– Three conditions to making numerical data a trigger for change
– Putting your numbers into a story
the synopse (8 p.)
VisitorI want to buy
this synopsis (8 p.)
Ask questions to engage people
The culture of asking questions is not very widespread in corporate circles. Yet, it is an invaluable driver of engagement and progress. How can we get the most out of it to mobilize energies?
Rally the entire workforce for effective change management
What is the secret of the exemplary success of some (too few) transformation programs? Discover how to rally the energies of the whole workforce in order to manage change effectively.
Making Numbers CountChip Heath, Karla Starr
Taking neurobiological and psychological mechanisms into consideration to make your numerical arguments more engaging.
How can we alter our marketing practices by taking into account the major role of subconscious?
Une mémoire extraordinaireJean-Yves Ponce
Reinforcing our memory is first and foremost a question of technique and training.
The Best Data Storytellers Aren’t Always the Numbers PeopleAlexandra Samuel
An article that reminds us of one of the basic rules of storytelling: the starting point is always the audience! It also invites us to apply this same requirement when manipulating data: just because we are speaking in numbers doesn’t make it any more acceptable to forget to personalize our...