THE BIG IDEA: Setting the Course for Commerce as a Data Storyteller

The magic of reading, storytelling and education or bible and religion, Black background space above for text message or copy.


When you think about it, all the people you meet, every place you visit, and every item you interact with, have a story to tell. Now with the people you meet, there are some fascinating stories. The people that make up Stratford University all have their own stories, and they are all varied and fascinating. I know of one associate who drives an electric motorcycle, another that is an avid hiker and marathon runner, and one who is a published author. When it comes to places, even the abandoned farmhouses covered in ivy and shrubbery, have a story behind them. There are some mobile device games that can reveal hidden history behind where you are standing. But what about those everyday items you interact with? Your iPhone? Your car? Or how about a favorite coffee mug? Do these mundane objects have stories?

In a quirky way, they do.

Think about it—did you pick up your iPhone on your birthday as a special treat, or did you just decide one day “I want to see what the big deal is…” and get one for yourself? Why did you pick up the car you drive? Is it your first car? Why that car? And take a look at what you’re drinking your coffee or tea out of? A coffee mug might have a story behind it from the saying on the side, the image imprinted on it, or where it comes from. So you might be surprised how you can find a story waiting to be told. Even in the data that your computer holds.

Big data, illustrationData storytelling is the hot new job in Information Technology, and quickly evolving as an essential skill that everyone in the industry needs. During a 2009 interview, Google Chief Economist Doctor Hal R.Varian stated the ability to take data, to be able to understand it, to process it, extract value from it, to visualize it, and then to communicate it to others, is going to be a hugely important skill in the next decade. Data has become increasingly ubiquitous. Companies are desperately searching for talent able to make sense of it, be it Big Data or simple analytics on a campaign. The demand for these data storytellers will only increase in the future. With the shift towards more self-service capabilities, analytics, business intelligence, those skilled in generating insights from all this data will expand beyond analysts and scientists. A next generation of data tools will make it easier for people across business functions to interpret more data on their own. As a result we’re going to see an unprecedented number of insights being generated within companies than ever before, but we have to improve the communication of these insights. Otherwise, without competent interpretation and conveyance of these findings, we’ll see poorer insight to value conversion rate. In other words, if the CEO doesn’t know the story behind the data, then nothing will happen. This is why executives and businesses need data storytellers. If an insight isn’t understood and isn’t compelling no one will act on it, no change will occur. Commerce cannot evolve, and you cannot understand what is and isn’t working from a strategic standpoint.

It is so important to understand how different elements combine and work together, and data storytelling looks to be a skill that will be in demand. When a narrative is coupled with data, it helps explain your audience, what is happening there, and what direction you need to take your business. Data storytelling provides particular insight, and is important in the growth and direction of a business. Visuals are applied to the data they enlighten the audience with insights which you wouldn’t see without charts and graphs. When the narrative and the visuals are merged together they can engage and even entertain.

It’s a challenge, but if you can tell a story, perhaps this could be a career to consider.



shurtz.jpgA research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratfdord University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.


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