Tell us a story

You can invent whatever you like. But if you don’t spin it into a story, hardly anybody will understand why it is significant.

As humans, we are hardwired to think in terms of narratives. Tell us a story, and we know what’s going on. But confuse us with mere facts, and we simply tune out.

I’ve come to realize that in order to bring our Lab’s research to the outside world in a way that will truly have impact, we need to tell a story. Not the story of how our stuff works, but the story of why it will matter.

So yes, peer review journals are important. You definitely want your professional colleagues to verify that what you are doing is solid research, and result of honest science.

But also, you need to tell everybody else why what you are doing matters — including that vast majority of people who don’t care how cool your algorithm is. What they care about is what effect your innovation will have on them and on the people they love.

And to get that information across, you need to know how to communicate what you’ve done in the form of a story. Some researchers might think that this is an unfair burden, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable.

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