When Good Storytelling Goes Bad

By Lorrie Lykins

Most of us love a good story - especially those inspiring tales delivered from the dais of a conference our employer spent a serious chunk of money sending us too. Those stories light a fire under us and we return to our jobs energized and rededicated to giving our jobs our all. I say "most of us" because researchers tend to be a little outside that norm.

I like to think that most researchers never stop questioning and that they (we) approach information with fairly equal parts of curiosity, tenacity, open-mindedness and skepticism. I'm always curious about the origins of information, and in the case of a survey, I want to know who was surveyed, when they were surveyed and how the questions were asked. I can't sit through a presentation of any sort that relies on research - from a PTA budget report at my kid's school to a presentation of newly crunched data by one of my colleagues - without pondering those very questions. And during presentations I find myself squinting to read the footnoted sources inserted in impossibly tiny font in the corner of PowerPoint slides. This is because at some point in the presentation, my internal narrator interjects something along the lines of: "Oh yeah? Says who?

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