Chapter 9

Changing the Way We Operate

Change Begins with a Story

To hell with facts! We need stories!

—Ken Kesey

In its simplest form, a story is a connection between cause and effect. Peter tricks the villagers too many times with a false “Wolf” cry. For his transgression, he suffers the loss of his flock. When Aesop wrote his fables, he inculcated in Greek children a sense of cause-and-effect relationships that would serve them all their lives.

Like those morals, the implications of data are best conveyed through stories. At a TedX talk in New York, Ben Wellington explained how he came to call himself a data storyteller. Ben is trained in data science and his wife works as an urban planner. In 2012, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law granting public access to all urban planning data to citizens through a website. Ben applied his skills to reveal the trends in urban planning. And, with an expert at home, he produced insightful analysis quickly.1

The New York City government data set contains parking ticket history, bicycle accidents, and taxi pickup and drop-off times and places, among other things. Ben pulled the data and began to pick it apart. In 2013, he published his first analysis: a map of cycling injuries across the five boroughs. Ben published it on his blog, I Quant NY. Many other news outlets syndicated his analysis and traffic ballooned.

Reflecting on his success, Ben realized that his lifelong passion for improvisational comedy, a hobby from ...

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