Uniqueness Can Be The Enemy

June 14, 2014 Kris Hammond

We have a natural desire to believe that everything we do is unique and fundamentally different than anything anyone else does.

Hey, we’re human.

But when it comes to communicating things about our world – our business, our life, our health – this idea of uniqueness can be our enemy. In fact, our ability to draw the variety of information about our world into clean, clear and coherent categories and then use them to communicate is part of what makes us intelligent in the first place.

When it comes to business communications, we can uncover powerful insights by applying this same approach to big data. Instead of focusing on the analysis to determine the message, we can focus on the actual message itself – an earnings report, for example, or an individual performance review – to figure out the type of analysis necessary to achieve that communication goal. By focusing on the communication, we link the data we are collecting to the messages we are trying to communicate. Individual communication goals can then work together to enhance and expand upon each other and provide greater context for a larger and more complex communication. This is the essence of storytelling. This is Narrative Analytics.

For us, the goal is always the story, and data analysis is the means we have to get there.

Think of it this way. Say you’re putting together a performance review of a company. To do so, you’ll need to define a set of metrics against which to evaluate the company, and those metrics may have components associated with them, and those components may have further components as well. You’ll have to consider how those metrics and components change over time, and you’ll need to see how the company compares to others. And if you want to say something about how the company can improve, you’ll need to know what components can change and what the opportunities for change are.

You would go through the exact same process if you were looking at how a student, an investment portfolio or a sports team is doing. No matter what the subject, the pattern of the story you need to hear, the analysis that is required and the nature of the data behind it remains the same. Sure, there will be differences – the metrics associated with a student are certainly not the same as with an investment portfolio — but they are predictable and regular categories and can be treated with the same sort of analysis.

I would argue that it is simply impossible to produce a performance review without this type of analysis. Further, this actually has nothing to do with whether the report is being generated by a machine or a person. It is not some strange artifact of artificial intelligence. It is the core nature of what it means to produce a performance review, even for humans.

And we’re not just talking about performance reviews. This pattern of storytelling is similar for any type of communication – reports around rankings, descriptions, alerts, and process flow analysis.

None of this should be surprising. Communication is based on truth, and truth comes from the data in front of us. Likewise, the stories we tell are always driven by what we know. And this is exactly how Narrative Analytics works. While at Narrative Science, we offer a unique and fundamentally different approach to big data, the resulting intelligence is derived from the same process we’ve been using to communicate since the beginning of time.

Kris Hammond is the Chief Scientist of Narrative Science. Connect with Kris on  and Twitter.

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