In research we combine the science of data with the art of storytelling to guide our clients.
I’m wondering about something, though.
Good storytellers help the audience understand the inner mental states of the characters in the story. It is well known that humans crave tidy explanations of complicated phenomena; if a parsimonious story does not exist, our brains will search for causal explanations, aided of course by a good storyteller.
How much can we truly know the inner mental state of another?
Something happened recently that has me thinking about these questions.
Seth Grimes, organizer of the Sentiment Analysis Symposium, wrote a blog post about Metavana and its relationship with Satmetrix. In that post he referred to an interview I did with Satmetrix CEO Richard Owen, which was first published on Research Access and later republished by GreenBook Blog.
Here is an excerpt from Grimes’ post:
“Read Dana Stanley’s GreenBook blog interview with Satmetrix CEO Richard Owen for detailed background. It’s interesting reading, but do keep in mind that Stanley apparently has a business connection with Metavana has a business association with a Metavana insider.”
Why the stricken out language? When the post originally appeared, it stated, “…Stanley apparently has a business connection with Metavana.” After Metavana’s CMO and frequent Research Access contributor Romi Mahajan contacted Grimes and told him I have no business connection with Metavana (which is true), Grimes added “has a business association with a Metavana insider” and struck out the original language while keeping it in the post.
Why state, without even contacting me, that I have a business relationship with either Metavana or one of its “insiders?”
The answer to this is clear; it makes a better story. Grimes’ post is critical of Metavana, and it is a juicier narrative if my interview of Owen is somehow tainted by my wanting to preserve some kind of business self-interest.
In reality, I attended the NetPromoter conference earlier this year where Metavana’s partnership with Satmetrix was announced; Romi introduced me to Mr. Owen, and I asked him for an interview because I thought it would be of interest to Research Access readers. There was no agenda.
I don’t really know Seth Grimes; I have met him briefly (at last year’s Sentiment Analysis Symposium). I am not going to ascribe motivations to him in the writing of his post.
Rather, I tell this story as a cautionary tale for researchers – and anyone else in the business of storytelling. Be careful when ascribing motiviations to other people. Because I don’t really think you can do it reliably.