The Narrative as Valuation

Aswath Damodaran writes:

If one extreme of the numbers/narrative spectrum is inhabited by those who are slaves to the numbers, at the other extreme are those who not only don’t trust numbers but don’t use them. Instead, they rely entirely on narrative to justify investments and valuations. Their motivations for doing so are simple.

1. Story telling is a powerful attention getter/keeper: Research in both psychology and business point to an undeniable fact. Human beings respond better to stories than to abstractions or numbers, and remember them for longer. After all, the Harvard Business School has taken story telling almost to an art form with its cases, tightly wound narratives that are supposed to convey larger lessons.

2. Unrestrained creativity: “Creative” people through the ages have always fought back against any restraints on their creativity, especially those imposed by those that they view as less imaginative than they are.

3. The Creative Superiority Complex: Just as numbers people intimidate with mounds of numbers, good narrators can browbeat “bean counters” with superior story telling, especially if they can back their stories up with personal experience.

Don’t trade off storytelling. Just don’t do it.

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