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.”
It 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
Quote: For CEOs, creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking, according to a new study by IBM. The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world.
Quote: We teach leaders how to design and execute change, how to let go of things, and how to delegate. We don’t often teach the other people how to “hang on” through all of this. What gives a manager the biggest payoff during these times? Self-leadership.
Quote: The human mind is hard-wired to reinforce existing maps, even in the face of dis-confirming evidence. Psychologists have documented a depressingly long list of cognitive biases that distort how people process new information and prevent them from noticing when established mental models break down. The “confirmation bias” refers to our tendency to notice data that confirms existing assumptions, and while ignoring or discrediting information which challenges our assumptions. When faced with data that doesn’t jibe with existing assumptions, people typically ignore it, discredit it, or force it to fit their model.
Quote: Almost everyone who builds a technology company knows that people are the most important asset. Properly run start-ups place a great deal of emphasis on recruiting and the interview process in order to build their talent base. Unfortunately, often the investment in people stops there. There are four core reasons why it shouldn’t:
Quote: We are much more than our work and even our family. These formulaic questions evolved from the need to make conversation more than the desire to get know somebody. What results is we begin to think that people are fairly boring. But it’s not the case.
Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a technology consultant, investor and entrepreneur with an interest in using technology and data to solve real-world business problems. He currently runs his own consulting practice focused on helping organizations use their data more efficiently. Additionally, he is the Chief Information Officer of Sundial Capital Research, publisher of sentimenTrader
Eric received his Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) in Information Systems in 2014 with a dissertation titled “Analysis of Twitter Messages for Sentiment and Insight for use in Stock Market Decision Making”. His research interests are currently in the areas of decision support, data science, big data, natural language processing, sentiment analysis and social media analysis.In recent years, he has combined sentiment analysis, natural language processing and big data approaches to build innovative systems and strategies to solve interesting problems. You can read some of his research here: Eric D. Brown on ResearchGate
In addition, he is an entrepreneur that has launched a few companies with the most recent being a company focused on proving data analytics and visualization services to the financial markets.