Excerpt from course description

The (Hi)stories Multinational Companies Tell


This is a summer course for summer 2021.
Maximum 100 students.

The overall goal of the course is for students to learn how company (hi)stories are created and used as strategic, immaterial assets. Multinational companies narrate stories about themselves, their past and future in annual reports, CSR reports, anniversary publications, on web platforms, social media, and other places. These (hi)stories are based on masses of qualitative and quantitative data, imagery, visualizations that must be turned into reasonably coherent, trustworthy and meaningful narratives. 

In the course, students learn how company narratives emerge from a variety of sources and explore the importance of identifying biases in the interpretation of data. Furthermore, they will be able to identify alternative stories in the data. They also learn how to distinguish between evidence-based, factual company narratives and purely fictional constructs. Different stakeholders make strategic decisions based on the company narratives and depend on their accuracy and accountability. The students learn to assess the truthfulness of the narrative and its strategic purpose. They learn how to read between the lines, how to identify silenced voices, missing sources and alternative interpretations. Finally, the company narrative must be meaningful for audiences in different markets and cultures, so the students will learn how to consider the context in which the narrative appears.

The students will work with company narratives from multinationals from Brazil, China, Australia, Scandinavia, USA, South Africa, and other countries, presented by lecturers from many of the same countries. There will also be guest lecturers from multinational companies.

Course content

Week 1: The company (hi)stories

Introduction to theoretical concepts, cross-case methodology for analyzing company stories and their data sources.

The role of data in the making of company stories. Introduction of the concept of data-driven stories, how companies use data to create a narrative through text, data visualizations, imagery, infographics or other means that help to tell the story.

Getting to know each other and establishing work groups.

Week 2: Contextualizing stories

Analyze how company stories are shaped for specific cultures and markets. Study ethics and sustainability accounts of the same company in different countries. Learn choice of key terms/visuals/imagery to help tell a story, examine factors that need to be considered, such as language, bias, cultural perspectives etc.

Independent group work and discussion of findings in class.

Week 3: Uses of company stories

Analyses of cases to identify how they are shaped to fit them for a strategic purpose, like marketing, tax audits, IPO’s, M&As, anniversaries. How the use of data-driven visualizations can help "sell" the story to the audience. Introduce examples of how data can be misused or presented unethically to influence audience perception. Presentation of findings in groups and class.

Independent group work and discussion of findings class.

Week 4: Making stories

Examine how one set of data may be used to create more than one narrative. Use visualizations to help support the storyline without introducing unintended bias.

Identification of alternative stories in datasets.

Narrate parts of the group’s self-made company story and deal with responses.


This is an excerpt from the complete course description for the course. If you are an active student at BI, you can find the complete course descriptions with information on eg. learning goals, learning process, curriculum and exam at portal.bi.no. We reserve the right to make changes to this description.