Friday 7 May 2021

How to Convey Insights through Data

 This post's podcast episode is available at SounderApple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcher and Spotify.

When you are short of time, here is the one action that will give you 80 percent results in 20 percent of the time.


Provide a metaphor that connects the insight to existing knowledge.


–        Review your data as if you were telling a story.

–        Present the insight that reveals a deeper understanding of the data.

–        State a metaphor that personalizes the insight and makes it relevant.

Shared understanding is essential during change. People must align on the why, what, when, where, and how of the initiative. Everything must make sense or doubt, resistance, and risk seep in. 

Data is the foundation of knowledge. It is the raw materials of pattern recognition, insights and fact-based decision making. The challenge is that most people struggle to make sense of data. They think in stories instead of numbers and need context for data within their frames of reference to have meaning. Without personal connections to new concepts, people may become confused and distrustful of your insights and recommended way forward.  

Metaphors are powerful communicators. They help people understand new concepts by relating them to existing knowledge. The understanding of the metaphor creates a visual picture with which to associate the new information. The recipient draws their own conclusion once they see a connection between the two concepts. 

Classic business metaphors include “it’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” “put your oxygen mask on first,” and “we don’t eat our own cooking.” For example, "Rebranding our poorly-rated wellness program is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

 First, distill the insight you want to convey into a sentence. The next step is to think of common connections. Produce two or three test metaphors and pick the best one. Finally, test your metaphor on a couple of people to make sure it is easy to understand and relatable. Your metaphor will help people understand your insights and increase their support for your recommendations.


METAPHOR GENERATOR TOOL: What metaphor will explain the insight from my data?


Personalizing a metaphor by including an audience member in it enhances the connection: "It's like Nina putting more money into a vending machine after nothing came out the first time."

The Change on the Run: 44 Ways to Survive Workplace Uncertainty book is now available. Go to or your favourite bookseller for more details.

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