Data Storytelling: “But I don’t know what the insight is”

The biggest roadblock to effective data storytelling is this statement I hear repeatedly, “But I don’t know what the insight is.” I stumbled upon a sequence of analysis used by radiologists that can help data analysts overcome this roadblock. And this blog series is my attempt to create a sequence of analysis for data analysts for effective data storytelling.


What can a radiologist teach a data analyst about what to do
when you don’t know what the insight from your data analysis is



For the past few weekends I have been listening to my husband, who is a radiologist, say, “If you don’t know what exactly is going on in the MRI, describe what you can see.” I hear him say this to other radiologists, who he is teaching how to read an MRI to. He says this statement a lot, which is an indicator that this is a common problem faced by the radiologist.

As I overheard him have this discussion with other radiologists, it reminded me of discussions I have had with various data analysts where they have expressed that often they don’t know what is the cause for the numbers showing a trend or anomaly.

Unfortunately, when a data analyst doesn’t know what the insight is, it seems like the end of the road for them. In such a situation they often resort to ineffective solutions, like, saying what is obvious to others ( the numbers went up in the 3rd quarter, I mean, most people can see that ). And yes, they do feel miserable about the fact that they are not adding value and just saying the obvious. However, in absence of an insight they don’t know what else to do.

It seemed to me that radiologists do have a way to tackle the problem of not knowing and I wondered if data analysts can learn from it. So, I asked my husband to share with me the method radiologists use.

And as suspected, his response was insightful and very relevant for the data analysts too. In fact, there are a lot similarities between a radiologist’s and data analyst’s roles. Let me share some,




  • A radiologist’s job is to analyse a scan and diagnose.
    A data analyst’s job is analyse the data and come up with an explanation
  • Radiologists analyse and explain the cause of the findings.
    Data analyst analyse and explain the cause of the findings
  • Radiologists look at a scan.
    Data analysts look at a data visual
  • Radiologists help other clinicians with their diagnosis.
    Data analysts help other business units with their findings
  • Radiologists rarely see the actual patient.
    Data analysts rarely see the customers

Now the way radiologists analyse a scan, is via a very structured approach.

The method is called : SEQUENCE OF ANALYSING A SCAN .

As I share the sequence, I will also build a  SEQUENCE OF ANALYSING DATA in parallel, for data analysts.

Let’s get started, whether you are a radiologist or a data analyst, you will find yourself in either of the three situations when you look at a scan or data. In the first two situations you explain and in the final one you describe.

Obvious to all analysis : Explain this situation
 ( click on the link ) 

Obvious to some analysis: Explain this situation
( click on the link ) 

Obvious to none analysis : Describe this situation
( click on the link ) 



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