Data Storytelling with Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

Listen to this episode on Anchor FM

One of the first books on data that host Kate Strachnyi read was Storytelling with Data. The author, Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, is the guest in this episode. Cole has always described what she does as telling stories with data. So she founded a company called Storytelling with Data. Listen in to learn more about Cole’s mission to communicate effectively with data, make graphs that make sense, and weave those into compelling stories.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • The story behind Storytelling with Data [02:45]
  • Why is data storytelling important? [10:51]
  • Turning data into stories [15:55]
  • Graph designing tools [22:08]
  • Storytelling with Data community [28:18]
  • Data storytelling and your career [37:13]
  • Focusing on storytelling [45:37]
  • Dynamic storytelling dashboards [51:31]

Teaching beyond the data

Storytelling with Data helps organizations by teaching and practicing how to visualize data effectively. The company also focuses beyond the visual. They consider how data can be communicated effectively regarding who audiences are and how the company will be sharing with them. In particular, the company thinks about how it can use storytelling to get the message across. This process is taught mainly through workshops, which are now led virtually.

Choosing the best chart

No chart is inherently good or bad, and each one has a perfect use case. The challenge is in venturing too far from that ideal use case. Then the situation can get tricky quickly. Storytelling with Data has a monthly challenge where, typically, the community is asked to focus on a particular type of graph. Last month, the company surprised people by asking them to make a perfect pie chart.

Overcomplicating charts is inadvisable. The third dimension doesn’t plot any data, so exploding 3d charts actually distort data. While it may look cool and attention-grabbing, it does a poor job of reflecting the information. Embellishments make data more difficult for people to estimate and make comparisons. The graph doesn’t make data interesting. Data is interesting because of the way it’s represented and communicated.

Communicating data effectively

Those who work with data usually come from a quantitative background where the data aspect is comfortable. It can be easy to forget the importance of communicating that data effectively. Because someone is familiar with the data, they can pass along a few charts that make total sense to them. Many things can be done to make that tacit knowledge explicit by carefully choosing the graphs made with it.

People often say that data storytelling makes sense. But when they look at their work, there’s a gap between where things are and going through a full-blown story presentation. Effectively storytelling with data doesn’t have to happen immediately. It’s something to work towards that is integrated in small ways at first. Those small successes will build people’s confidence and build credibility with the people around them.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

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