Getting statisticians and storytellers to work together

“Describing the world may be thought of as an Olympic contest between the simplifiers—scientists in general, statisticians in particular—and complicators—humanists in general, storytellers in particular. It is a contest both should win."

- mathematician John Allen Paulos

The way the game of analytics is played today, there isn’t much competition. The statisticians are on the field, the storytellers are on the bench—or in the stands—or, sometimes, not even in the stadium.

Of course, in a few specialized areas—market research, for instance—the storytellers are on the field, and the statisticians are missing.

But are the statisticians and storytellers ever on the field together—competing, sharing perspectives, making each other stronger and better?

At least one way to make this happen is with visualization. Lately, we’ve been striving to build viewers that show everything we can capture about a single customer’s behavior over time. The visualization is designed to tell each customer’s story. By being able to cycle through customer stories quickly we get a balanced picture of how customers are using a product.

Alone storytelling offers a point of interest, but one that can be dismissed as an edge case or overemphasized to create a myth about the behavior all customers. The challenge is to balance this visual storytelling with concrete statistics to show how often particular behavior patterns occur.