Data storytelling: promoted but barely researched

Data storytelling struck a chord with the data industry when Tom Davenport, of Competing on Analytics fame, gave it his blessing two years ago. Storytelling was a data scientist’s most important function, he said. Enthusiasts responded with columns, papers, and blog posts — but most of it did little more than echo Tom.

Fine, we agree that data storytelling is a good thing. But we still have scant observation of the actual practice of data storytelling — hard, direct evidence of what has worked, what hasn’t, which tools work, which career paths produce good practitioners, and other questions. I don’t even see consensus yet on what a data story is.

I intend to find answers from as many business storytellers — current, past, or future — as I can find.

What I want to know

  1. What is the definition of “data story”? How is data storytelling different from traditional storytelling?
  2. What characteristics do successful storytellers have?
  3. What frustrations or false starts have storytellers had?
  4. What career paths have produced successful storytellers?
  5. What are the most successful techniques? What are the least successful?
  6. What tools have proven the most helpful?
  7. What organizational cultures have proven conducive?
  8. What are any observed benefits of data storytelling?

Do you tell data stories in business? Have you tried or do you hope to try? Do you know anyone who fits this description? Please contact me here with your info or leads.

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