Why Stories and Not Just Big Data?

In the age of big data, why are stories important? Corporations collect so much information on customer experience and purchases to understand what they may want to purchase in the future. Organizations track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to capture and report on their progress towards meeting these metrics. Safety Managers track and report Lost Time Injuries (LTIs). In this mass of data, are stories really that important? In my opinion, the answer is an emphatic yes because data doesn't always capture the context behind the outcomes and without an understanding of context it can be tempting to draw incorrect correlations or to mistake correlation for causation. Data is extremely important for tracking and measuring performance, so the point is not to negate the importance of data, but data without context may simply be noise. Stories may help get to the meaning behind the data points.

Stories add a new dimension to assist leadership in understanding context. In fact, storytelling is playing such an important role in organizations that many companies actually hire Chief Storytelling Officers. If you want to try a quick experiment, open a web browser and search for Chief Storytelling Officer and see the article links that are returned. Many companies in various industries have recognized the value of stories and the importance of expert storytellers. From Nike to Etsy, the spectrum of industries is pretty wide and numerous companies have realized the value in telling stories to inspire their customers, but also to help motivate, influence and inspire their employees. In fact, entertainment executive Adam Leipzig writes,

"Surely leaders do not want to tell people how to do every aspect of their daily job. Storytelling can persuade them–enlist them, even, to help enact a compelling narrative, one that takes the team from here to a better place, and unifies a complex environment to a single, clear mission." 1

Additionally, stories may play a powerful role in working towards improving human performance, safety and operational performance. On page 24 of his book Pre-Accident Investigations: Better Questions-An Applied Approach to Operational Learning, Todd Conklin writes, "Our job is is to help the worker tell the story of how work happens in both success and unfortunately in failure." 2

Data may not provide the full meaning of how work happens in failure events or when teams successfully accomplish their work. Stories provide the depth of meaning behind data so leaders may make informed decisions and so the organization may learn. As a leader, manager or consultant working with safety, operational, quality, reliability, product management, and/or project management teams (or really with any teams for that matter) it is important to understand how stories impact change and improvement.  So, if we can make the case for storytelling, how does one become a great storyteller? I hope to answer this question with our online storytelling "Master Class," titled Powerful Storytelling for Organizational Success, which is now open for enrollment. The course enrollment will only be open until Saturday October 22nd at 11:59 PM. This is so I can run the first class as a cohort through this 4 week program. If you want to learn how to tell stories in a coherent and consistent manner to help improve your operational and human performance as well as your safety efforts, please click here to enroll.

                            COURSE ENROLLMENT CLOSES IN:


Stories play such an important role in the way organizations operate, but unfortunately, most people really don't understand what goes into telling a good story, and even the best intentions may fall flat when trying to influence organizational change. That is why I have put so much into this storytelling course and I hope you will join me on this storytelling journey by enrolling in the course today. 

In this course you will learn:

  • A repeatable process for telling a coherent story
  • How to find the hero or heroes in your story so you may lift up those important people and help others to understand their challenges in order to influence needed change
  • A consistent method for injecting emotional tension and release points in a story as you move your audience towards a desired future
  • Techniques that have been used by master storytellers to influence sweeping change
  • Methods for selecting the right story archetype for influencing others in a compelling manner

I am accepting registrations now and will close registration for this course at 11:59 pm Central Time on Saturday October 22nd. This is so I can work with the first class of students together. I am going to leverage my experience teaching at the master's level to help make this a really great course. I have been researching this subject for many months and have been applying my research and best practices to my own storytelling methods. Part of the course will actually include me breaking down one of my keynote presentations titled "From Cowboys to Ninjas: A Story of Transformational Change" and show you how I applied these best practices to my story to create a coherent and consistent structure. We will work through the learning modules one week at a time over four weeks. 

Here is what you get in the course:

  • 4 Learning Modules with instructional video content
  • Interactive discussion board through commenting integrated into the learning modules
  • Downloadable slides from each module  
  • A workbook with the course information, and hands-on exercises to help you actually apply what you are learning
  • I am also considering holding a live online Office Hours session for interactive online discussion if there is sufficient enrollment

If you want to join this course, please click here to enroll. Spots are limited and once enrollment closes, it won't open again until we start another class, and I'm not sure when this will be. Also, if you know of others who might benefit from the course, please share this email. It might be fun for you to go through the course together as colleagues as well!

There is an FAQ section on the course enrollment page, but if you have any other questions not listed there please let me know using our Contact Us page. Thank you and I really look forward to having you in the course

With much appreciation,



1. http://www.adamleipzig.com/blog/chief-storytelling-officer/

2. Conklin, Todd. Pre-Accident Investigations: Better Questions-An Applied Approach to Operational Learning. Boca Raton: CRC Taylor and Francis Group, 2016. Print.