Storytelling has always been a fundamental element to human existence: it is how knowledge has been handed down from the earliest recognisable human communities. We have always needed to understand and stories such as the Greek myths and the Norse sagas were used to help people come to terms with the world in which they lived. They also answered another purpose: setting out the values and way of living acceptable to the community – and at time, as with the parables of Jesus recorded in the Christian bible, they have been used to challenge values and change minds.
As parents we take huge pleasure to see our children engage with stories that held us spellbound when we were their age; as individuals we tell stories to our friends and family: often, when they are used to entertain, with all sorts of embellishments. Some family stories indeed are now as much myth as those written by Homer.
Stories too can be used to sew dissent, dissemble and deceive. As the poet Milton lamented, it’s the Devil that gets all the best lines in the bible and we don’t need to look much further than politics in the US and the UK to understand the power of stories when used in this way. Stories therefore do not necessarily deal in facts, but they can present as factual and can be used to create narratives that fan the flames of resentment. When faced with the distortions that emanate from some politicians on both sides of the Atlantic I am reminded of the line used by American novelist Mark Twain and attributed by him to 19th century UK Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli that there are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics.
It is the use of stories in fiction and the abuse of storytelling in modern politics that I believe discourage many in business from thinking about how they can be utilised to help bring out the real meaning behind the facts in a commercial setting. There are so many examples I’ve heard from clients where they just don’t believe the data behind the latest ‘good news’ story they have heard from an agency. What business leaders want are two things: credible data and people with sufficient understanding of that data to tell them the unvarnished truth in a way they can absorb it and then make decisions.
As anyone will tell you who presents data to colleagues, the first question they are likely to hear is a version of ’So what do these figures mean?”
Today, too often, business leaders are bombarded with countless data points and are quite frankly drowning in the data. They are staring at various graphs, spreadsheets and charts and all they want to know is what does all is this data mean. Without the proper story based on credible data businesses will never fulfil their potential and some may even go to the wall for the lack of understanding what is really going on.
It’s time to put this right and ensure your business has the capability to generate robust and credible data from your e-commerce operations and then tell the story of that data such that it can help you perform.
I am proud to say that I think my colleagues have cracked this and If you’d like to know more about how data stories can now be used in business to tell the truth behind your data then you can find more details here