Storytelling is very much in vogue. There is general agreement that research findings that employ storytelling are more likely to result in action than the reporting of facts and findings. However, the process of story creation is less well established, and the focus often seems to be at the reporting stage. However, I believe that finding the story is an integral part of the analysis, not something that happens afterward.
The story or narrative is not a collection of numbers; it is an idea that can usually be expressed in words. For example, a tracking study might find that in two regions there was a dip in the main KPIs of 5% – but that is not a narrative.
The business needs to know which of the following narratives is the relevant one:
- Minor downturn in 2 regions, worth checking further, perhaps during the next quarter.
- Important downturn in 2 regions, suggest further analysis.
- Major downturn in 2 regions, action required now.
Knowing which of these three is the right narrative requires a combination of knowing about the business, understanding the business question that led to the research being conducted, and an ability to analyze the data in the context of the business and its needs. There are a wide range of analysis tools and researchers need to be skilled and practiced in their use. But researchers should remember that the analysis does not live in a vacuum, it exists to answer a business question and to provide useful business advice.
Finding the narrative is a key part of the analysis, something that happens before the reporting process. A collection of facts and findings is not an example of analysis; finding/creating the narrative is integral to the analysis process. If you have not found the story, you have not finished the analysis.