Why Bad Stories Can Trump Good Science

Neil Stevenson of IDEO shares insights about the disconnect between science and medicine and patients who ultimately make healthcare decisions, often based on incomplete or inaccurate information. How can scientists use storytelling to communicate better?


  1. Event Overview

  2. The world of health is changing. People have more choice than ever. Unfortunately, they are less well-equipped than ever to make those decisions, which leads to things like the anti-vaccination movement. The solution is for scientists to master storytelling. But how is this achieved? And how can we ensure stories are used for good?

    Announcement:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/science-vs-storytelling-why-bad-stories-can-trump-good-science-tickets-17227360499 
  3. Speaker Biography

    A former journalist and magazine editor turned Executive Portfolio Director of IDEO Chicago, Neil Stevenson has led projects on everything from video-game interfaces to digitally-enabled education to cutting-edge food and beverage work. He has also taken his accumulated experience in psychology, technology, and cultural trends and woven it into a futurology offering. A seasoned storyteller who also coaches TED presenters, Neil gives regular talks on emerging trends and future scenarios, with an emphasis on the tension between new tech-enabled experiences and our relatively unevolved brains.

    Before IDEO, Neil studied the human brain and behavior at Oxford University, coming away with master's degrees in Psychology and Social Anthropology. From there, he was drawn to London, where digital technology had given birth to a new musical genre: house music. He began writing about club culture and, within a few years, was editor of Mixmag, the world’s biggest club magazine. He edited other magazines devoted to emerging cultural movements, most notably The Face. He also launched successful online titles such as B3ta and Popbitch that employed web communities to generate content.

    Neil’s greatest wish is to travel back in time to meet his eight-year-old former self and show him the mind-blowing capabilities of a 2015 cellphone.
  4. Live Tweets

  5. Insights by @csrainc

  6. The consumerization of healthcare is dramatically increasing the need for factual information. "The Internet" is rife with opinion and everything, so it can be confusing for people to find and act on the right information.
  7. I spoke with Neil after the event, and we noodled the idea that maybe the biggest issue with "storytelling" is the word's association with exaggeration or lies. So maybe we need a different word. Storytelling as an art is incredibly powerful because, as Neil said, people think in terms of narratives, so storytelling relates to how people think. It just has a bad name.
  8. Related, I think practicing physicians are closer to understanding the need to communicate with patients better, but "scientists" may will not. They need a valuable proposition to develop the skill of communicating better, so they can inform people better and ultimately made more impact.
  9. Design and marketing communities talk about storytelling nonstop, but that doesn't mean it's the write way to refer to the skill to scientists and medical professionals. I'll hazard that few people would associate "storytelling" with objective facts, hence the big disconnect with the scientifically minded.
  10. In my client work in experiential social media [bit.ly/expsocmedia], I find that teams across industries require time to transform their perceptions of their patients (customers...) and their attitudes towards them. The digital Social Channel is very efficient at empowering people to create knowledge, so patients are now becoming capable partners in their care.

    I write this because communication is effective when both parties listen and speak to connect. Therefore, scientists, physicians, marketers, anyone will communicate better when they listen, when they ask themselves, "What can I learn from my patients/customers?" This is a HUGE rethink, and it usually takes time; professionals are not accustomed to collaborating with their clients.

    The thing is, it's a collaboration; patients don't have the training and expertise for clinical decision-making, but they know best how outcomes affect them personally. So provider and buyer are complementary.