Crunch, Data Conference, October 16-18, 2019 Budapest

"Stories beat statistics" – Interview with Brent Dykes

Dorina Szabadi // 2019-09-23

Data storytelling is one of the most important skills you can obtain and develop into today’s data economy. It is the critical “last mile” of communication that transforms your findings into something that will inspire change and create value. Brent Dykes has more than 15 years of enterprise analytics experience at Omniture, Adobe, and Domo and knows all about data storytelling. We asked him about his professional epiphany, buzzwords and advice before he would take the stage at Crunch. 

Crunch Conference: Which article/podcast/book/paper/cartoon/etc. had the most powerful impact on your professional life and what was your takeaway?

Brent Dykes: Chip and Dan Heath’s book, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” has had a profound impact on my career. Its principles transformed the way I think about communication. It was also one of the first books that highlighted to me the power stories have over statistics. As a data geek, I often thought logic and reason (facts!) were all you needed to inform decision making. However, this book opened my eyes to why storytelling is such an essential form of persuasion. 

CC: What do you think are the buzzwords that need to leave and why?

BD: I think we can all safely say “big data” was always just “data.” Sure, the term might have represented a significant shift in the volume of data that companies deal with, but to me, the “bigness” emphasis detracted from its more challenging aspects (variety, velocity, veracity, and value). I’ve also never been a fan of the term “citizen data scientist”. This term mischaracterizes the capacity for business users to become “pseudo” data scientists. 

CC: What technology or breakthrough do you hope we will be discussing five years from now?

BD: As an oxygen-breathing inhabitant of this fine planet, I hope we can witness significant breakthroughs in climate-related technology over the next five years. Despite the best efforts of my own government to deny climate change, I hope we come to our senses collectively and introduce a wave of new innovations that counter the effects of global warming.

CC: What is your advice for analysts entering the field?

BD: My advice is to never forget “the last mile” in the analysis process. After all the hard work it takes to find a key insight, you must then communicate it effectively so that other people (decision makers) can understand it and be compelled to act on it. Too often, data professionals excel in the exploratory phase but then fail in the explanatory phase. As a result, their insights go nowhere. Mastering the art of data storytelling can ensure you succeed in this critical last mile.

Brent will talk at Crunch about the power that stories wield over statistics and gain deeper insights into the art and science of data storytelling. Check out his talk and bio here

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