It has been said that stories are crucial to our development as human beings. With the opposite thumb, we cling. Stories taught us what to stick with.
Humans are a pattern-seeking, story-telling species. We are addicted to stories. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night telling stories.
The best journalism is about storytelling. So is the best teaching, the most effective learning.
As CS Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the end.”
We all want a happy ending. Our life is about making stories worth telling. A good story is an invitation to something bigger than ourselves. The purpose of a good storyteller is not to tell people what they think, but to ask them questions that make them think. And a dose of inspiration to get better and better.
Jim Kouzes, co-author of the classic bestseller leadership challenge, Decades of research backs up his opinion. So his take on storytelling is worth a closer listen.
Roger Dean Duncan: Most good leaders seem to be good storytellers. Can you tell me a story that illustrates the value of telling a story?
Jim Kozes: Stories are powerful tools to teach people what is important and what isn’t, what works and what doesn’t, what is possible and what is possible. Through stories, leaders impart lessons about shared values and enable others to work together.
While working as Program Director for Knowledge Management at the World Bank, management author Steve Denning learned firsthand how stories can change the direction of an organization. After trying all the traditional ways to get people to change their behavior, Steve realized that simple stories were the most effective way to get the essential message across within an organization.
“Nothing else worked,” said Steve. “The charts baffled listeners. The prose remained unread. The dialogue was cumbersome and too slow. When I faced the challenge of persuasion again and again, I realized that storytelling was the only thing that worked.”
Duncan: How does storytelling affect the “stickiness” of information, or what is memorable?
Kouse: In a business environment obsessed with PowerPoint presentations, complex graphs and charts, and lengthy reports, storytelling can seem like a soft way of getting the hard stuff done. In fact, Steve’s experience with storytelling is backed up by data.
Research shows that when leaders want to communicate standards, stories are a far more effective means of communication than corporate policy statements, performance data, or even stories and data. Information is remembered more quickly and accurately when it is first presented in the form of examples or stories.
Duncan: Do you prefer good, well-told stories to charts and graphs?
Kouse: That was certainly the experience of Philip Kane.Storytelling has been part of his life since childhood. His father was an excellent storyteller and used stories particularly effectively to teach lessons. Philip brings his family traditions into business life at Goodyear.
When Phillip was named head of a large team that previously had low communication engagement scores, he needed to find ways to be more proactive in connecting with employees. So he started writing to the team every Friday and telling the story in ‘The Week’. This is essentially a newsletter in the form of stories containing life lessons. He continued that practice when he was named president of Wingfoot Commercial Tire Systems, his 2,500 wholly owned subsidiary of Goodyear.
According to Phillip, storytelling accomplishes two things. It provides a framework for people to relate to messages they encounter in their lives and can bridge to the point. It also offers him the opportunity to lead by example and not just as a sermon.
Duncan: Are there any other benefits?
Kouse: When you tell a story, you have to pay close attention to what your constituents are doing. Colleagues generally make better role models of what to do in the workplace than celebrities or people above a few levels in the hierarchy. When you hear or read stories, you are much more likely to see yourself doing the same. People rarely get tired of hearing stories about themselves and the people they know. These tales are repeated, and the moral of the story spreads far and wide.
Stories, by their very nature, are public forms of communication.
Storytelling is how people pass on lessons from generation to generation and from culture to culture. Stories are not meant to be kept secret. they are meant to be said.
Emory University psychology professor Drew Westen argues: The worldview they hold and the values they hold sacred. ”
Follow me please twitter again LinkedIn. check out my website or some of my other works here.