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The Power of Storytelling

Maya Brahmam's picture

Think back to your childhood…do you remember your favorite story?  Whether it was Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or Pinocchio, I bet you can recall every detail. Why do stories hold such power over our imaginations and why are they being talked about so much in businesses today?

Steve Denning, former Director of Knowledge Management at the World Bank, explains in the Science of Storytelling posted on Forbes, “Slides leave listeners dazed. Prose remains unread. Reasons don’t change behavior. When it comes to inspiring people to embrace some strange new change in behavior, storytelling isn’t just better than the other tools. It’s the only thing that works…” In fact there is scientific evidence that storytelling mimics the way our brain works, and this is why we remember stories so well.

Nick Morgan, a popular communications theorist and coach, notes this close biological link: “Connecting with another human being is one of the highest forms of social being for us humans.  At the heart of it is good storytelling.  When I’m telling you a story, and you’re engaged in it, you match your brain waves to mine.  And in fact, if I’m telling you a story with a familiar structure, your brain actually anticipates what I’m going to say next.  The point is that that’s good for both parties.  We want to be in sync with other people…”

In a Harvard Business Review article, “Storytelling that Moves People,” Bronwyn Fryer and Robert McKee make the case that “Executives can engage listeners on a whole new level if they toss their PowerPoint slides and learn to tell good stories instead.” The article goes on to say that of course it’s not easy, which is why so many organizations stick to their “PowerPoints” and traditional ways of communication.

However, if you’re willing to take a risk and try something new, you can persuade and lead with your stories, and if you’re good enough, you may enjoy a tiny bit of immortality and maybe a lot of popularity! See Franco Sacchi talking about Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, where he says that the power of Nollywood is not in quantity or economics, it is in sharing the story narrative with grassroots customers where they live.

Photo © Simon Barnes (CC License)
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