Analytics Is Storytelling and the Irish Should Be Best At It

Many writers have made the connection between analytics and storytelling before (for example see here,here and here). Hans Rosling’s now legendary ted talks (available here) are a great example of this.

Yes, Rosling does extensive, rigorous, creative and insightful analytics, but more importantly he presents his insights in novel, engaging and delightful ways. Hans, like his fairy tale telling namesake, weaves stories around his analytics to draw his audiences in and dramatically present the underlying truths that his numbers reveal to him. Through his clever deliveries (his stacks of Ikea boxes are a highlight) Rosling makes his messages stick in ways that more mundane delivery would never achieve. All analytics practitioners should take note of this and realise that extracting the insight is only the beginning of our job – delivering the insight is where the really hard work starts.

Recently at another ted conference, in what appeared to be very much a Rosling-inspired talk, Bono joined the ranks of analytics storytellers. In a story the stretched over 3,000 years – using a mixture of typical bombast, self-deprecation, hope, vivid graphics and, most importantly, compelling story-telling based on solid statistics – Bono delivered a message about the opportunity to end world poverty. Which leads us to the Irish.

Bono, whether people like him or not, is one of the great Irish storytellers. From Raftery to Roddy Doyle, and everyone in between, Ireland has a history of producing great storytellers. In fact, some might say that the Irish are the greatest storytellers in the world. To try to support this with some data we can use the total number of Nobel prizes for literature won by a country as a measure for a country’s storytelling prowess (the data used for this analysis is available here). A chart of the top ten most prolific Nobel prize for literature winning countries shows that Ireland comes in in 10th place with 4 prizes.

To level the playing field a little we can adjust this data to look at prizes per capita, as shown in the image below. This time Ireland comes in in third place – just ahead of Hans Rosling’s Sweden. Not bad!

To return to analytics, Ireland is developing a reputation as a centre for analytics excellence. For example, there have been two significant analytics research centres launched in the last month (Enterprise Ireland funded CeADAR and SFI funded Insight) and many of the world leaders in analytics software have significant operations here (e.g. SAS, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM). With this growing expertise in analytics, together with the history of excellence in storytelling Ireland is surely perfectly placed to grow to become the best in the world at analytics!

There’s more fun to be had with Nobel related data from: