Don’t get “Theranosed”

Kaiser FungDon't get "Theranosed" just posted a blog titled “Tip of the day: don’t be Theranosed” where he defines “theranosed” as:

Theranos (v): to spin stories that appeal to data while not presenting any data

To be Theranosed is to fall for scammers who tell stories appealing to data but do not present any actual data. This is worse than story time, in which the storyteller starts out with real data but veers off mid-stream into unsubstantiated froth, hoping you and I got carried away by the narrative flow.

I really liked the definition of being ‘theranosed’, but anyone that’s been around long enough knows that this type of activity has occurred for many years and will continue to occur for many more.  In this particular example, a storyteller uses the appeal of data without actually using data to tell a story that led to a multi-billion dollar company valuation.  The people caught up in the story feel like they are being fed data to help back up the story they are being told and gladly go along with the narrative.

How can you ensure you and your company aren’t “theranosed”?

Well…I’m not sure you can be 100% safe from being spun stories without data, but you can build a culture of curiosity and questioning that almost ensures that at least someone in your company asks the right question and/or sees through the story being spun.

Additionally, you can build a strong data culture within your business.  Understanding how to use data to make decisions and tell stories can help you spot someone trying to “theranose” you. Understanding what it takes to analyze data and build meaningful stories with data will help you see through someone else’s BS  very quickly.

If you teams ask questions and dig into the data, you can be sure that you’ve do everything possible to minimize the possibilities of being “theranosed.”

When the story is right, people listen

listen closely By twenty_questions on flickrIt been quiet here this week as I’ve been traveling.   I spent the week in Chicago talking to clients and refining the story of what I do.

Its fun to talk to new people…especially when they are receptive to the story you are telling and when that story is authentic.

When the story is real and right, people listen. When the story has holes or isn’t backed up by facts and experience, people tend to stop listening – or worse – never start to listen.

I sat through quite a few meetings this week and it was clear after about 30 seconds that the story that we were telling was interesting.  We were peppered with questions. We were asked about deliverables, schedules and processes.

Contrast that with other meetings where the story isn’t heard.  You spill out your story to blank faces and glazed-over eyes.  You try to connect with the people in the room but nothing works.  You continue talking but never connect. Why? Well…it could be that you suck at storytelling and presentations…or your story sucks.   Or…you are presenting to a room full of mannequins.

How can you know that your story is right?  How will you be sure people will listen?

You can’t be sure…but with practice and refinement, you can get close. Ask for feedback from friends, neighbors, colleagues and clients.   You’ve also got to take the time to make sure that you story is worth telling.

That said, I think most stories have an audience. One of the hardest things to do is find that audience…but once you do, practice the story.  Get the story right and people will  listen.

But…be careful to not take advantage of that audience. Make sure you can deliver on that story. Make sure you don’t change the story in mid-stream either.  There’s nothing worse than believing in a story (or person) and then finding out half-way toward the destination that it was a big fat lie.    Remember…you want to tell a story of truth…not one of fiction.

Once people listen, watch out…because things will start lining up in your favor then. Whether you;re selling SEO services, photography, technology consulting or widgets…get the story right and people will listen.

Image Credit: listen closely By twenty_questions on flickr

Links for May 1 2011

  • Why does the sun never set on legacy applications? by Jim Harris on OCDQ – Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (OCDQ)

    Quote: The simple reason most legacy applications do not go gentle into that good night, but instead rage against the dying of their light, is that some users continue using some of the functionality provided by the legacy application to support daily business activities.

  • Steve Jobs and the Power of Storytelling by Mark Ivey on Social Media Explorer

    Quote: So think through how you can collect and tell stories through your speeches, blogs and other social media efforts. Play journalist as you go through your normal daily activities and keep a notebook. Stay on the lookout for stories, anywhere, anytime. If you’re working with corporate bloggers, coach them on storytelling techniques and/or conduct brainstorming meetings or workshops-these can be a source of rich ideas. Your message is that “it’s ok” to be a storyteller, since so much of our training in the corporate world is to focus on the facts and process.

  • How To Hire A Marketing Agency By Mitch Joel on Six Pixels of Separation

    Quote: There’s the old sales adage that, “all things being equal, people buy from those they know, like and trust. All things being unequal, people still buy from those they know, like and trust.” Choosing an agency partner is quite similar: work with a team that you like and trust… and a team that you have a keen interest in getting to know as well.

  • Forget about engagement by Wally Bock on Three Star Leadership Blog

    Quote: Forget about trying to define “engagement” or creating it among your team members. Instead concentrate on what you can control and do a good boss’s job. You may not increase “engagement,” whatever that is, but you’re more like wind up with high morale and productivity, which make a pretty good substitute.

  • How the Word No Can Help You Achieve Your Goals by Mark Bryan on Tiny Buddha

    Quote: Whether its sales, job searching, or asking someone out on a date, you need to find a way to take rejection and turn into drive. Drive is the difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t.

  • Alignment by Seth Godin

    Quote: A perfect relationship: I want your company to help me, and your company wants to help me. We’re both focused on helping the same person.

CIO’s – what’s your team’s story?

What's your story?In my post earlier this week, I spoke, or more accurately typed, about the importance of story.

I wonder if there are any CIO’s and IT leaders out there that read that and wondered about their story?  Their personal story…and their IT group story.

Have you thought about what the story is for your IT group?  Are you the team that ‘gets things done’ or are you known as the team that’s hard to work with.

Do people within your organization come to you first for projects….or are you the last to hear of new projects?

Are you the group driving innovative ideas…or the group that causes innovation to falter or fail?

What’s your IT group’s story?

The importance of story

Stories and StorytellingI love a good story.

I love to read a good story and I love to create stories…although they may not always be “good.:)

In fact, I love a good story so much that I’m researching the topic of stories and storytelling as a mechanism for knowledge capture & transfer within project teams.  See a presentation I did on that subject here -> Stories, Projects & Knowledge Management.’s another article of mine on Using Stories to Share Knowledge.

Stories have a ton of good qualities. They help set context.  They help share values and beliefs.   There are lots of good things about stories.

But the most important is one that we often overlook.  It’s the importance of YOUR story to your life.

Chris Brogan pointed me toward Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (affiliate link) a few months ago.

Chris recently said the following about Miller’s book: “It’s about the importance of living your life as if you’re the main character in an important story.

He hit it spot on.  This is a wonderful book.  Not only did it make me laugh, it made me think long and hard about MY story.  And about YOUR story too.

What’s my story?

I used to think that my story was one of small town farmboy who makes a name for himself in the big city.  I was going to work hard and climb the corporate ladder and become the CEO of a large organization one day.

But…as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that my story is changing.

I no longer want anything to do with being employed by a large organization. I’d rather be a part of  small group of people doing something fun and important.

My story has evolved and I’m evolving with it.  I’m longer interested in the office politics that some people play. I’m more interested in finding that smart group of people who want to do something fun and challenging.  Those folks that see that things CAN be different.

My story has evolved from one of perpetuating the ‘sameness’ that is corporate America to one that of wanting to be a part of (and perhaps starting) a small business.

My story includes me working hard and playing hard.   It includes my wife and I spending more quality time together traveling and actually engaging in our passion of photography rather than wishing we could.

My story isn’t the classic American Story, but I think its one that will become the neo-classical American Story.

I think people are getting fed-up with the large, bureaucratic environment found in most large busiensses. Those businesses that look at the numbers before they look at the people.

That said, my story is my story and I’m living it as though I’m the lead character.  My story is one of hundreds of millions in this country, but its an important one to me.

What’s your story?

I look out at the people I interact with on a regular basis and realize that, for the most part, I don’t really know their story.

I have almost 1400 followers on twitter but i really only know less than 20 of them. On Facebook, I’ve kept my friends to those that I know fairly well but there are still folks who I don’t really know what well.

This blog receives about 6000 visitors a month and has ~1800 RSS subscribers but I don’t know the story of every one of these visitors or subscribers.

Of course, there’s no way for me to know everyone, but I do get curious about what drives people to my site and why they decide to come back (or subscribe).

I’m always interested in hearing your story so drop a line and let me know what you are working on and/or where I can learn more about you.

The Importance of Story

As I’ve said, story is important.   Not only does your story help define who you are, it helps define were you’ll go.

Based on this post and the little bit of background I’ve provided, can you tell where I’m headed in life?  Do you know the next chapter in my story?

Do you know they next chapter in your own story?  Are you writing your own story or letting someone else?

Me – I prefer to write my own…and hope to continue doing for the rest of my life.

BTW – if you DO know the next chapter of my story, don’t tell me 🙂

Links for May 23 2010

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