December 17, 2018
Information Insight

Build Your Company Stories

I recently read an article that looked back at a lecture that American postmodern writer Kurt Vonnegut gave in which he posited his theory about the shapes of stories. The article focused on this phrase from the lecture: “There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers.”

The article went on to make the point that Vonnegut was representing in graphical form an idea that writers have explored for centuries – that stories follow emotional arcs, that these arcs can have different shapes, and that some shapes are better suited to storytelling than others.

The article then did a deeper dive into this concept by presenting evidence that researchers have used computers, sentimental analysis, and data-mining techniques to point to the fact that there are six basic emotional arcs that form the building blocks of all stories, regardless of their complexity:

  • A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story
  • A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy
  • A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story
  • A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus
  • A rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella
  • A fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus

When I started thinking of all the different stories I have read (or watched) during my lifetime, I realized that this article was indeed correct. At the time, I simply thought it an interesting read and moved on with my day.

Over the course of that week, I worked at one of our clients in the healthcare industry, another client in the manufacturing industry, and a client in the construction industry. That’s work on three different projects covering three different areas of subject matter. The work on each client involved aspects of data governance and master data management – services found within Kenway’s Information Insight capability, to which we also refer as Data Strategy.

I reflected on our Information Insight capability in general: Applying our methodologies associated with iterative development centered on helping our clients fully capitalize on their data. By balancing our Business Intelligence, Data Governance, and Data Management services, Kenway provides thorough insight into both the specific business and the industry in general.

It hit me. Similar to Vonnegut’s position, it’s my belief that Kenway has been organically building its own “arcs” and forming its own “data stories” when dealing with data since our doors first opened back in 2004. I’ve witnessed this first hand since I joined Kenway in 2014. That year, we helped a company in the healthcare industry build out a new data warehouse. Fast forward to 2018, we helped a company in the construction industry with the same endeavor. In between those four years, there were several other companies in several other industries where we have applied the same skills and services to accomplish similar goals. Although the subject matter, industry data, and client or project changes, the tactics we use to help our clients gain complete insight do not – i.e. the journeys we take with our clients boil down to the same “basic arcs”. Those tactics vary in detail and complexity based on the client, the data, and the maturity of processes. However, similar to the aforementioned emotional “arcs” that form the building blocks of all “stories”, Kenway’s arc in this area is to “Ideate, Build, Measure, and Learn”. We figure out what is working well, build on it, and quickly move away from what is not to produce the best return on investment for the client.

In the end, when we help our clients gain this complete insight, it allows them to tell their own stories. These stories help our clients better manage their resources, their costs, and generally run their organizations more efficiently. In addition, stories provide more dynamic marketing and, at the highest level, broad strategic direction. Finally, all this understanding can help to inform or inspire the creation of new stories, driving our clients into exciting new directions.

If you want to home in on your own story and are trying to use data to mold that story, we would like to hear from you. Reach out to us at

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