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Clear Data-Driven Stories

Scott Galloway has a book on where the US is currently. He provides a useful example of clear data-driven stories.

A Famous Marketing Professor

Galloway is a marketing professor and as such I am naturally supportive. It is great that he is famous and appears in the media so much. I’m all for it. We should have more marketing professors on TV. Even if we all won’t be as good with the audience as Galloway it’d be fun. I’d love to nominate some colleagues.

Scott Galloway has produced a number of books that illustrate his thoughts on life. I wouldn’t say that I agree with everything but there is a lot of good stuff in his book Adrift. This is a series of data-driven stories. He notes that he isn’t promising to be object or infallible. This caveat allows him to share opinions and select his data to tell a story. The good news is that the story can then both be well-tied to the data and generally coherent.

Observations On The US

He gives us a number of observations on life in modern America.

Government as part of the solution: Galloway notes the role of the government in the vast successes of US tech. The amazing technological advances haven’t arisen only as a result of inspired people in their parent’s garages. Much of the tech was developed with government funding and support. Galloway notes how he personally wasn’t simply self-made. It is worth bearing this in mind. Even the person who has come the furthest only makes it that far because other people have built the roads. (Replace whatever similar saying makes sense in the specific circumstances).

Tax: Why is the US tax system so hard and yet so porous? Galloway isn’t a fan. Nor am I. The US tax code is extremely wordy and, yet despite the length, I’m not at all convinced the system does a good job of collecting taxes from those that owe them.

Immigrants: They start businesses and are a key source of US economic dynamism. This is always a good thing to note when we hear about how immigrants are a (usually unclear what type of) ‘threat’.

Adrift Or Riding A Wave?

Part of the challenge with looking at the world is that there is so much data. Some bits look great, other bits very depressing. This allows the writer to take a wide range of defensible positions. The title, Adrift, doesn’t sound like it’ll be a positive view and to be fair there is plenty of negative stuff in it. In general, the tone is a bit more negative than I would personally take. That said, there are plenty of positive things that can, and should, be taken from Galloway’s book.

Not least we always need to remember that just because people are panicking about crime doesn’t mean they are right to do so. Crime has been falling (mostly) since the 1990s yet the public doesn’t seem to believe it. People can be wrong.

Clear Data-Driven Stories

Even looking at the genuine problems in the world it is worth being positive.

The modern world order has ample flaws, but sometimes the scale of our achievement is so vast, we lose sight if it.

Galloway, 2022, page 42

I’d also highlight the idea in the book that people are more often wrong than bad. Some people who hold views that sound pretty reprehensible genuinely believe they are making the world better. They are keeping people safe, protecting puppies from bad examples etc… Maybe we can persuade them that they are wrong rather than dismiss them as evil.

Clear Data-Driven Stories

Perhaps the most useful idea to take from Galloway’s book is to learn how to convey clear data-driven stories. I know that I could do with applying that lesson more consistently. As Galloway shows it is much better to have a clear point and create a simple picture than overcomplicate. Many of the ‘charts’ in the book are little more than pictures but this isn’t a bad thing. It gets the point across simply and effectively. Communicating with data is a vital skill. Not over-complicating the data is an often overlooked virtue.

For more on data visualization see here.

For more on a positive view of the world see here, here, and here.

Read: Scott Galloway (2022) Adrift, Portfolio see

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