Data and Stories

Robert Schultek Author of The Gauntlet

Data is readily accessible to leaders. Often, there’s so much available that it consumes valuable time to carve out the facts which best fit a specific need.

When that need is motivating your team to drive a change initiative or implement a strategy, revealing only the data is rarely enough to prompt action. Most people have a limited capacity to absorb data;

share too much and it begins to sound like noise, with no compelling emotion in it.

Pursuing change is as much a matter of the heart as it is of the head. Data is necessary for rational analysis of a pending change, but by itself, it does little to address the emotional disruption – the uncertainty, discomfort, or fear – that is integral to implementing change.

Emotions are a necessary element in a change initiative. When paired with convincing data and a clear, thorough understanding of projected benefits, they can be leveraged to focus your team’s energy, to encourage perseverance, and to achieve the shared ownership required for the change to be successfully realized.

For generations, it’s been understood that the most proven method to tap and nurture the required emotional response is to use stories. When your data, concepts, and benefits are embedded in a supporting narrative, people listen more willingly and closely. The resulting interest and empathy create a sense of meaningfulness within the listeners.

The most motivating stories describe triumphs over trouble, departures from the past, doing what has never been done, or going where no one has ever been. Every story is about challenge and change.

There is urgency in change initiatives, so it’s tempting to rely only on the data as the quickest, most efficient means to motivate action. But investing your energy and time to craft the right story for the moment, one that merges the crucial data with a persuasive tale, is the most productive way to launch and sustain a change effort.

How might stories better stimulate your team to act on change?

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