Do You Get Emotional About Statistics?


One of our clients, a leader in the financial services industry asked us to create a compelling, full-length report on their small business economic development program. Sounds relatively straightforward, right? Here was the challenge: we were confronted with a massive amount of data that only an economist could love.

The challenge: How on earth would we get anyone to care?

In business, complex data sets are the mark of transparency. Yet, the average person doesn't correlate human experience with numbers. To effectively communicate ideas or advocate for a cause, complexity has to be simplified. When we help someone make connections between data and the human condition, it becomes personal and more memorable. Statistics about people, represent people -- real live human beings with families, hopes and dreams.

Data tells only half of a story. Qualitative information -- a personal anecdote, for example, softens the chill of mathematics with nuance. It provides a more compelling context.

When we began our assignment, we spoke to many of the participants of this particular program. Through hours of conversations we came to understand that it had been transformative. The transcripts revealed stories that were more deeply meaningful than the numbers initially disclosed. People not only experienced success, they earned the respect of their families and communities. They developed leadership skills and influenced others in positive ways.These achievements were reflected in elevated self-esteem, higher levels of happiness and generosity to others.

In business communication, data rules large with little room for sentiment. Yet, a story with universal emotions creates connection, stimulates memory and inspires retelling. These connections have intrinsic value in the marketplace because they build loyalty to services, product and brands. Numbers provide facts, but rarely does a human being get emotional about statistics.