10 types of storytelling with data

Over on the Harvard Business Review blog, Tom Davenport offers a framework for the types of story we tell using data.

We always hear that it’s not so much the data but the underlying story that’s important.  For a number of inconvenient reasons, that point is too often missed:

  • Analysts, quants and even accountants are often not that great at storytelling.  They care too much about the detail to let go and just tell the story.
  • Managers , marketers and other audiences are often embarrassingly innumerate.  Our animal mind is programmed to spot anomalies; it just doesn’t handle statistical significance that well.  We are too self-referencing, we don’t look for context and, no, “we” don’t really understand percentages.

I’ve put Tom’s story types in a table, but read the post (and maybe his book too) for further detail.

Dimension Story Type
  1. Past – a Reporting story
  2. Present – An Explanatory story
  3. Future – A Prediction story
  1. What happened?
  2. Why did it happen?
  3. How to address what happened
  1. “CSI” stories – small, ad hoc analysis
  2. “Eureka” stories – long, deep and involved analysis
  1. Correlation stories – relationships changed at the same time
  2. Causation stories – one change caused another
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