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Once Upon A Time... Business Leaders Thought Stories Were Only For Entertainment

30/03/2016 3:02 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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We've all grown up with stories--we're told fairy tales when we're very little, introduced to the classics in school and then as we grow up we immerse ourselves in stories in a multitude of ways, whether it's getting engrossed in the latest crime fiction novel, religiously following our favourite soap or even enjoying a night out at the theatre. Stories are generally seen as a device to amuse, entertain and provide a distraction from the real world. And these kinds of stories do just that. But, it doesn't mean storytelling has to just be used for entertainment.

Storytelling actually plays a useful role in informing us about some of the world's most important events. When we tune in to the news, are we not being told stories? Yes, they're factual, but a story is, after all, the way in which we pass on information to one another. One kind of story might seem emotional and imprecise while the other seems hard, clear and exact, but they are both a means to an end--both trying to get a message across.

[W]hat better way to make use of data than to analyze it and see the full 'story' of how the organization is performing?

Today, 'storytelling' has effectively become a bit of a buzzword in the business world, even though some leaders are sceptical about their true benefits to their organization. However, the stories we tell in business--as long as they are based on fact--are extremely important to our growth.

That's where data comes in. Business have reams of data at their disposal, and what better way to make use of it than to analyze it and see the full 'story' of how the organization is performing? After all, getting to the heart of the story is the only way a business leader can see where there might be operational issues and therefore decide what changes can be made to drive efficiencies and grow.

But how to make sure you are getting the most factual version of the truth? That's where the skills of the storyteller come into play. Naturally, with any story, even with the best will in the world, all attempts to be completely factual can still result in certain biases and emotions creeping in. So how to counter that?

The idea is to create an environment where a business connects their people together with good data. This will help them create data-driven stories that can benefit the company.

If a business wants to test the validity of a story, the best course of action is to equip everyone across the organization with the means to see data for themselves. That might not necessarily mean having physical access, but it does mean making data accessible to all--presented in a way that's easy to understand and can be readily interpreted by key stakeholders and business leaders to see the situation for themselves. After all, these graphs are stories too, and they need to be told in a way that shows the full situation, in the most visual way possible, while coming to a conclusion that can inform a business stakeholder and help them take a course of action that will improve their business profits.

Ultimately, the idea is to create an environment where a business connects their people together with good data. This will help them create factual, data-driven stories that can benefit the company.

Critical business insight will only come from truly understanding data from all angles. While stories and business data may seem like two disparate entities, they actually go hand in hand if you want to know more about your organization. Storytelling is an important business tool--as long as it's steeped in facts and data--needs to be something that organizations embrace to help support decisions across the board.

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