Six Types Of Stories To Tell With Data


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Everybody loves stories. Good brands tell stories. In recent years, we have started talking about telling stories with data and even seen rise to companies dedicated to this endeavor, such as ClearStory Data.

Good leaders tell stories as well. Here are some ways to leverage data to help tell six types of stories courtesy of the D3 Data-Drive Documents library.

Challenge Stories

Challenge stories are about overcoming odds and times when you have tried and failed in the past. This analysis of News Years Resolution Trends tells the same story year after year: diet and exercise are always higher in January than in December.

New Years Resolution Trends

Relating Stories

These stories help us get to know each other and connect on a more human level. The following metrics represent my own personal productive creativity characterizations for the traits defined in The Top 5 Qualities of Productive Creatives which are communication skills, pro-activeness, problem solving, curiosity and risk taking, respectively.

Metaphoric Stories

Metaphoric stories remove us from the complexities of real life to provide a simpler alternative from which to learn. Take JezzBall and its two balls bouncing around randomly as walls are created all around them; does that not represent every Information Technology project in your company ever?

Vision Stories

These stories create vivid images of what the future may hold, such as a crowdfunding campaign story which ultimately leads to funding the project of your dreams.

Potential Stories

These stories show us what is possible for others so that we can unlock our own hidden potential. Nadieh Bremer has done some amazing research into storytelling with data. She created the following visualization, which tells the story of how phone brands are stealing customers from each other (full article here).

Cautionary Tales

Cautionary tales serve as a reminder of missteps from a team’s past that you don’t want to repeat. The New York Times article about How Obama Won Re-election uses data to highlight key trends that didn’t end up being enough for Republicans to win.

Republican Shift

There is a seventh type of story; humourous tales designed to make someone laugh or smile. That can be an exercise for the reader. Using data to help tell stories is an emerging field and it is not necessarily easy. Sometimes it helps to know what type of story you want to tell before you dive into your ocean of data.

What stories have you told with data? What stories do you wish you could tell with data? We would love to hear!