Melbourne Business School News Data can drive creativity, says BBC StoryWorks analytics head

Data can drive creativity, says BBC StoryWorks analytics head

The notion that people are either creative or logical is wrong, says Harleen Thethy, who argues data is the key to unlocking both.

Harleen Thethy, Global Head of Data, BBC StoryWorks

Content creation has traditionally been a creative process that relied on gut instinct and experience, but Harleen Thethy is on a mission to change that.

The Global Head of Data at BBC StoryWorks | BBC News (International Commercial) will be talking about the intersection of data and content creation as a keynote speaker at this year's Melbourne Business Analytics Conference on 2 August.

The conference will see C-suite executives, data practitioners and academics converge at Grand Hyatt Melbourne to discuss data and digital transformation amid the rise of artificial intelligence and automation.

Melbourne Business Analytics Conference | Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 2 August 2023

Meet, network and learn at one of Australia's largest gatherings of data practitioners. Harleen Thethy will be one of the keynote speakers at this year's conference.


"I'm going to be discussing data-driven storytelling and the value to organisations of looking beyond just the data in order to really draw out that contextual narrative," says Ms Thethy.

"It's about understanding how we can build a strategy to improve performance and really tie in the creative and the strategic elements together to actually build a story around data."

As a data practitioner in one of the world's largest news organisations, Ms Thethy is keen to break down the barrier between creativity and analytics by highlighting the potential of data to enhance the work of journalists and content creators.

"Data is not simply a logical, practical, statistical field. We can have that creativity within data," she says.

"People tend to have these preconceived opinions that you've either got a creative mindset or you've got this very logical mind and the two don't really tie in together.

"Which is why I'm really, really pleased that the topic of the speech that I'm doing is about storytelling. It's literally about saying we've got this data, we've got these numbers, but how do we build something from that and make it contextual?"

Value of a data-driven approach

Ms Thethy says a storytelling approach can promote innovation by reducing reliance on individual instinct and experience and uncovering insights that haven't been tried before. "A lot of content creation is going off gut instinct and saying 'I just think that my audience are going to like this' – but how do you know that that output is true and correct?

"It's opinion-based and when you go from an editorial perspective and you say 'I think that this is going to evoke this reaction in my audiences', but you don't have anything to prove it, then you don't have anything that actually substantiates those claims.

"If you look at the way that people say 'OK, I'm going to go off gut instinct and it's worked in the past so I'm going to continue doing it moving forward', that's not really an innovative way of working.

"It doesn't really give you the experience to say 'actually, let's try something new and different'. That's not innovative because you're never going to use your data or analysis to revolutionise what you could be doing."

Improving the creative process

Ms Thethy says it is important to help content creators understand that analytics isn't about changing one's style, but rather improving the process.

"You've got to intertwine that data and the editorial together to really get that core benefit from both," she said.

Understanding this is important for creators who are highly experienced, esteemed and have been in the field for many years, as their workflows are now highly ingrained.

"It's about changing their mentality, getting them to understand that this is not changing the style. It's not changing their work or it's not changing anything that they're doing in their core," she says.

"They're still going to be producing that and they're still going to have that creative element, but how can we utilise the data and the analysis to actually improve their processes?"

Harleen Thethy will be one of the keynote speakers at this year's Melbourne Business Analytics Conference on 2 August. To see the full list of speakers and register, visit the conference webpage.

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Wednesday 2 August 2023 | The Grand Hyatt Melbourne | Leading The Way: Navigating Data and Digital Transformation in the Age of AI & Automation.