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Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

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chapter 7 lessons in storytelling

In my workshops, the lesson on storytelling often begins with a thought exercise. I ask participants to close their eyes and recall the story of Red Riding Hood, considering specifically the plot, the twists, and the ending. This exercise sometimes generates some laughs; people wonder about its relevance or gamely confuse it with Three Little Pigs. But I find that the majority of participants (typically around 80–90% based on a show of hands) are able to remember the high-level story—often a modified version of Grimms’ macabre original.

Indulge me for a moment, while I tell you the version that resides in my head:

Grandma has fallen ill and Red Riding Hood sets out on a walk through the woods with a basket of goodies to deliver to her. On her way, she encounters a woodsman and a wolf. The wolf runs ahead, eats Grandma, and dresses up in her clothes. When Red arrives, she senses something is awry. She goes through a series of questions with the wolf (posing as Grandma), culminating in the observation: “Oh, Grandma, how big your teeth are!”—to which the wolf replies, “The better to eat you with!” and swallows Red whole. The woodsman walks by, and, seeing the door to Grandma’s house ajar, decides to investigate. Inside, he finds the wolf dozing after his meal. The woodsman suspects what has happened and chops the wolf in half. Grandma and Red Riding Hood emerge—safe and sound! It is a happy ending for everyone (except the wolf).

Now let’s turn ...

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