What to Do When Your Data Doesn’t Tell a Traditional Narrative


We’ve talked before about how there’s always a story in your research data. But what if your story doesn’t fall into a traditional narrative structure? Is it ok to be a little… experimental?

In a word, yes.

Some of the best stories aren’t linear (think This Is Us), or don’t have a traditional hero arc (thanks, George R.R. Martin) or even a happy ending (ahem… every Nicholas Sparks book ever written).

If you see some themes in your data but no obvious way to piece them together with a linear plot, don’t start sweating – you’ve still got a story. You just need to find the right way to tell it.

Some mediums lend themselves naturally to traditional narratives, while others are more… flexible. So put away the PowerPoint and word processing software. It’s time for a more creative approach.

Here are some ways we might go beyond the ordinary:

  • Brand having a coming of age moment? Why not do a Claymation video showing its growth across data points, culminating in something new built out of its parts?
  • Don’t be afraid to drop the traditional plot altogether. Instead, use your data to create a recipe book to collectively expose the big picture.
  • Embrace those narratives that don’t lead down a single path! A classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” format can help readers explore your story from different approaches.
  • Or take those narratives that aren’t obviously linked and piece them together Crash-style to present a compelling and cohesive narrative about seemingly disparate data points.
  • Just the facts, ma’am? Start with something tangible, like a graphic novel or a “newspaper” with all the important headlines from your research.

At THREE, we embrace the “now what?” moments for the way that they challenge us to think differently. With a little bit of creativity, a challenging narrative can become a compelling story that will have lasting life within your organization.

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