Power of storytelling in business communications by Jean Storlie
Sitting at his desk at 6 pm, Bill struggled to finalize a pitch to his senior leadership team the next day. Reviewing the consumer data again, he felt confident that his team had developed a winning product concept. But how was he going to convince the skeptics to invest in this bold new idea? Pacing his office, he distractedly flipped on the radio. “Great, just what I need, traffic gridlock! And I promised Julia I’d pick up a few things for dinner,” he shook his head and switched channels. Soon, he was mesmerized in a story. When he came back to his pitch — it hit him! He didn’t need more facts; he needed a story. The stories were jumping out at him from the consumer data, but he’d been blinded by the statistics. He restructured his presentation, starting with a story, linked it to the product idea, and put most of the data in an appendix. Driving home satisfied, he greeted Julia with bread, wine, and smile on his face. His instinct was spot on … leadership became excited about the product, and he got the green light to move it forward.
As Bill learned, stories inspire, influence, and persuade in a way that facts alone do not. That’s because stories provide context and meaning that help us make sense of data and facts. People remember stories, but forget facts. Stories combined with facts can motivate new ways of thinking and behaving.
Research by neuroscientist, Paul Zak, at Claremont University in California, has shown that narrative communication actually changes brain chemistry. He found that the brain responds to a good story by producing more oxytocin, a hormone associated with empathy, compassion, and trust. However, the story, or narrative, must include key elements to produce this effect: a character(s), struggle against an obstacle, a moment of truth, and emotional transformation.
Rita Charon, a physician and researcher at Columbia University in New York, has pioneered in a growing body of research in the use narrative communication in healthcare. Her work in “narrative medicine” has shown that competence in storytelling and story listening improves clinical outcomes and also benefits the caregiver.
Everyone’s life contains a treasure trove of experiences that can be turned into stories. Learning to think and communicate in stories can enhance personal and professional effectiveness, regardless of work setting: financial services, healthcare, marketing communications, innovation, human resources, or education. Storytelling unifies teams by building trust and credibility. In leadership, stories can inspire a vision, convey leadership values, and help in coaching, mentoring, and networking. When applied to innovation, stories help to deepen insights, spark the flow of ideas, illuminate solutions, and pitch new concepts. Next time you need to persuade someone, find a story to breathe meaning into your facts.
Come learn more on storytelling in business on April 22-23, International conference “1000 and Your story”. [for more information http://storyfor.me/]