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Data is Just the Start of the Story

Karen Kahn, Chief Brand and Communications Officer, HP Inc.

October 15, 2020

“Data will talk if you’re willing to listen” – so the saying goes. And as companies, data-driven decision making has never been more important. It makes us smarter, faster, more efficient and more effective in everything we do.

Yet, as important as data science is, it will never replace the art of human storytelling. And when we’re able to blend the art with the science, that’s when magic happens. Data serves as the currency of change, while stories capture the hearts and minds needed to make change happen.

Case in point, look at the issue of girls’ education. The data is clear. Today, more than 130 million girls around the world continue to lack access to education, while women account for two-thirds of the 750 million adults without basic literacy skills.

But the only way we’ll solve this and the many other societal challenges we face – from systemic racism to climate change – is if we act on the data in ways that drives transformative change.

That’s what led HP to partner with Girl Rising, an incredible nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that girls around the world are educated and empowered.

At the Rising Together: International Day of the Girl Summit, I was moved by Nabila Aguele, Special Advisor to the Hon. Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning in Nigeria. “Data is key,” she said, before adding that it can also be overwhelming or uninspiring. “You need to vet the stories out there and ensure there isn’t a mismatch between data and stories.” She showed a remarkable ability to blend data with the real-life experiences of her constituents to drive public policy.

And this provides valuable lessons to all of us as communicators. It’s not enough to simply understand the problems we’re trying to solve. It’s equally important that we elevate the voices of those whose lives we’re working to improve. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, about 50% of those surveyed think business is failing to put people before profits.

Which is why authentic storytelling is so important. We must help our brands look in the mirror and make sure we’re being honest with ourselves, our customers and our communities. Ultimately, that’s how you build trust and drive long-term business success.

Some of the world’s most powerful stories come from grassroots leaders who are advancing gender and racial equality, human rights and environmental justice in countries around the world. These changemakers give us reasons to believe in our collective future, and earlier this year we partnered with Girl Rising to bring their stories to life.

The My Story: 2020 Storytelling Challenge shines a spotlight on incredible young leaders who are driving change in their communities. The campaign gives them a platform to raise their voices, elevate their causes, and inspire creativity and innovation to drive social impact.

Through more than 1,500 extraordinary and brave submissions, we’ve been transported across the globe. And while each story is unique, we see shared values that are helping communities get through the Covid-19 pandemic and create a more equitable future.

There’s Adhiambo Grace from Kenya, who’s only 10 years old and leading “Women Volunteers for Kids,” a group of women sewing 100 to 200 face masks daily and distributing them to their community for free. There’s Brown Ballerinas for Change, who use dance education to protest injustices and spread hope. At a time when there’s so much pessimism and distrust in the world today, these and the other stories we received through this program provide optimism and hope about tomorrow.

One program can’t change the world. But it can motivate us to do more. As brands, if we are guided by our values and work collaboratively with others, we can create a more just world. And oftentimes, the best way to start is by sitting down and listening to someone tell you their story. 


For more about the Storytelling Challenge, visit the Garage by HP.

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