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How effectively do you use data to tell stories?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How effectively do you use data to tell stories?

  • Very: my data always tells a story: 52.8%
  • Kind of: sometimes my data tells a story: 39.1%
  • Not very: it’s rare that my data tells stories: 6.1%
  • Not at all: it’s always just a data dump: 2.0%

Tell me a story. Clearly many of you think about the story you’re trying to tell with your data. When you understand how to structure a story and what elements to include, it’s much easier to use data to fit your narrative. Invest that extra time thinking through the story before you jump into the analysis. That extra time will clarify your message and help move your audience to take the actions you want them to take. If you’re not thinking about the story your data is telling, find people who are good storytellers and ask them how they craft those narratives. Storytelling isn’t hard. It just requires discipline and the use of a solid storytelling method.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”