Storytelling and Whatnot
Why you should listen to me: I work at Lucid, the world’s largest platform for human answers. If Macgyver worked at a tech company, he’d do what I do. I’m the CEO’s right hand man. I see everything and execute on most things.
As the story goes, Ernest Hemingway wrote his first six word novel following a bet from his friends. For sale: baby shoes. Never worn. This was wildly successful so he wrote these:
Hostage Taken. Baby on the move.
America transfixed by Greenville baby terror.
If you sit (or stand) and think about the words I presented, you will see there are about four distinct stories in the mix. That’s because like full length albums, a proper butcher, and decent pair of shoes…stories are important. Learning to be a good storyteller is a skill just as important (I’d argue more important) than any of the skills you can get from Google. Expect design/product management/coding — learn some, or all, of that.
[update: you can learn those from Google too, who knew?]
Why data needs a story
Much to my dismay, our robot overlords have to yet to take over. That means that humans are still the primary decision makers in all things related to the world. Humans are emotional, intelligent, illogical, driven, and stubborn. This means that raw data or numbers do very little in the way of changing anything on a grand scale.
“The African oral tradition distills the essences of human experiences, shaping them into rememberable, readily retrievable images of broad applicability with an extraordinary potential for eliciting emotional responses.” — Harold Scheub
That means your decks that are full of charts, graphs, tables are boring and probably counterproductive. We recently had a board meeting and there was a request for data of all kinds. It eventually netted out to 80+ slides of graphs and all sorts of other headache inducing ways to display data. Then, Comer pulled a Jedi mind trick and made the presentation engaging, connectable, and personal. I often wonder if CEO is essentially just Chief Communicator, I mean really, what else do they do besides talk about stuff that other folks compiled? (This is reassuring. I come from the legendary shit-talking region of New Orleans, ask Brian “B-32” Williams). In all seriousness, business has always been about data-driven decision making. Realize this. Accept this. Learn how to tell a story.
Why you need a story
There are words all over that say people will have lots of jobs. Some other people have disputed that. I don’t really care which one is right. I do know that Google is a thing, and people will search for you.
Where are you from?
What do you do?
All of these are probing questions designed to get you to tell your story. Whether you like it or not, you will have one. Do you want to curate it yourself, or have others do it for you? #decisions. #branding. #zesttea.
Here’s a story
There’s a movie called [redacted]. I never saw the film, but apparently, there is (at least) one Black person in the film. The studio wanted to advertise to Black people so, naturally, they tapped a network with a large Black audience to get eyes on their trailer (we all know Black people love TV, network television is just a bastion of smart, relevant programming). The studio decided to measure the effectiveness of this ad using the Lucid product, Proof. Turns out the ad was getting lots of eyes. Plot-twist, the eyes belonged to middle aged white women.
How could this vanguard of Black content attract so many non-Black eyes? Well, they promised to get eyes on that ad by. any. means. necessary. They knew that it is very hard to measure the effectiveness of ads so they got any eyes they could. Wrong.
Moral of the story: yes the ad got all the views they requested, but the data set told a very different story. Additionally, I got a story out of their bad story.
Why you shouldn’t listen to me: My sleight of hand is official. Watch out for me.