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What’s the story with data?

I have a confession to make; something that is hard to solidify by committing to text, much-less publishing the fact as it makes me sound a little odd…. But I prefer a good data set than a good novel!

The search for meaning behind data and the evolution of the storyline as you explore, triangulate against other perspectives, and deliver lucidity and resolution is a source of delight to me.

Much like reading the back cover of a good novel to get a flavour of what’s to come, when you get data back from a research project, the initial skimming of the findings provides a tingle of anticipation as you begin to theorise about where the story is going to go and the resolution that will be revealed at its conclusion.

The development of the structure of the story, like the chapters of a book, reveals itself as critical insights solidify and the characters in the form of key data points emerge. Inevitably there are surprises along the way to throw the “reader” off track; the literary equivalent to the complicating crises the protagonist meets along the way which generate interest and anticipation.

Throughout the journey the underlying narrative arc remains intact and leads you to a satisfying finale and resolution of the disparate and seemingly disconnected subplots. At its best, this should leave the “reader” in no doubt about the veracity of the case being made for your final verdict.

The “reader” reviews that ensue in the form of a client’s response and consequent actions is the most rewarding affirmation of the tale and its enduring legacy.

For those seeking to create a more “storyful” approach to the delivery of data led insight, which can often be pretty turgid and impenetrable, here are some things to think about.

· Do your foundational research before you kick off on the venture.

· Try to map the story before you start writing; mind-mapping is helpful for doing this.

· Triangulate your hunches with external data to build confidence.

· Build your chapters around critical, compelling data points.

· Commit to a firm conclusion; don’t leave the “reader” hanging.

· Relish the reviews, good and bad as an opportunity to learn how to pen even better stories in future.

So, while data is unequivocal, its interpretation requires creativity as characterised by the need to spot high-level patterns, make connections between apparently disconnected phenomena and ultimately develop a clear solution.This is the essence of “Seeing Beyond” which is central to our philosophy at Opinions.

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