“Telling a Story” isn’t Enough: Minimalism in Reporting
It’s not new to hear that researchers need to help their clients “tell the story” – we know that we can’t stop at simply providing the data. However, when I hear a research supplier use the phrase “We tell stories” as a point of differentiation, it makes me think that they really don’t quite get it.
For me, telling a story is easy… All it really means is “we’re going to tell you everything we know, and in an organized way with a beginning, middle and end.” While that’s nice to have, that’s not what clients really need; it’s not sufficiently focused.
What is needed in reporting, and in Research overall, is to help the END client decide “What should I do or recommend, based on the results of this research?” Rather than simply telling a story, a decision-focused report synthesizes information then presents ONLY the relevant/essential data that informs the reader in a manner that is persuasive, helping the end client make a decision.
So, therefore, the goal isn’t just to “tell a story” with our reports. Rather, the goal is to practice minimalism in reporting by providing a POV based on the minimum necessary information in order to convince the PARTICULAR audience for the report.
This style of reporting requires a lot of discipline:
– Practicing Minimalism requires you to understand BOTH the circumstances/context of the study AND the audience
– Practicing Minimalism often means creating different forms of the report… presenting more thorough information to your immediate client, then streamlining the information for their boss, and then summarizing it all into one page for the executive team
As well, Practicing Minimalism requires researchers, both Client and Supplier, to “Consult” ensuring that the report they deliver goes beyond just a “Story” and provides a relevant, brief, decision-focused POV.
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