Thursday, October 19, 2006

Totems, Parables and Stories

How do we learn?

One of the most effective ways of communicating is through stories. Most cultures, including organizations, teach through storytelling - be it verbal or visual, as in the case of totems.

Even when presenting the 'hard facts' we often turn them into vignettes. You know this is coming when listening to a presentation and the speaker follows up the numbers with "For example ...." I was once asked how large the forecast error was for a retail chain. The answer, at least in terms of metrics, was right there in terms of RMSE - but that didn't equate. The message that did work was: we're off by about one full shopping cart every six months. Technically the same metric, only the context changed.

It seems the secret to communicating metrics is to first convert them into everyday terms the audience understands.

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