Storytelling – A Key Ingredient in Applying Data Science

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With the dramatic increase in the availability of data across all sectors and the growing number of individuals who identify as data scientists, the question of how to influence others would seem to be easy to address by sharing the data. However, as Peter Wang points out, human behavior is seldom influenced by data. Humans are more likely to respond to narratives that present information in a meaningful context. It turns out that our latest technologies of data science are heavily reliant on the very old practice of storytelling in order to have influence in organizations and society in general.

With this in mind, Wang offers several suggestions for taking advantage of the power of storytelling. The storytelling narrative might begin with abstracts that are more tangible for those in the audience for the data. Including specific points of reference is important. Weaving in more subject matter expertise is another technique, and data analysts might take advantage of subject matter experts who can enrich and ground the presentation. Finally, data scientists need to acknowledge that the narrative story is inherently subjective and provide sufficient context on the data collection and interpretations to give others confidence in the reasonableness of the narrative.

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