The Participation Blog

Story Interesting, Data Boring

Welcome to the new Age of Unreason. When my opinions trump your facts, when any news that might be contrary to my existing beliefs must be fake, and the only information that I trust comes from sources and people who tell me what I want to hear – you have a problem. OK, we have a problem. The public sector in particular needs new skills, new thinking and new ways of providing complex information to the people that it serves. Facts and data need to be translated with context and relevance. Tell the story around the numbers.

Experts and leaders that we coach sometimes use the worn out phrase of ‘dumbing it down’ when they refer to simplifying complex information. I don’t think the dumb-er intends to be malicious, but it’s clearly insulting to the dumb-ee. Regular people are seldom dumb, but when experts know everything there is to know about a subject, it’s hard for them to realize how others wouldn’t know at least something about it. Here’s a start to fixing your dilemma.

It’s a pretty safe bet that whatever you’re trying to say starts – or should start – with writing it. Sometimes you write to be read and sometimes you first write whatever you intend to say. Make no mistake that those two different deliveries require two very different styles; but for the moment, let’s focus on five (5) very basic tips.

Transportation departments are learning to use highway message boards in creative, compelling ways that maximize the chances of influencing driver behavior – for the good of the rest of us out there. There’s a right way and a wrong way.