Posts Tagged ‘Harvard University Press’

Storytelling Is Only Tool that Inspires and Changes Behavior

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

31IR01Hm5+L__AA160_“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,” Steve Denning wrote in a column on Forbes.com. Storytelling and other “soft skills” garnered little respect in 20th Century business, Denning points out; instead, scientific data, numbers and left-brain analytical skills were highly valued. However, in the new economy based on innovation, storytelling is crucial to success.

Reporting on a book entitled, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, by Brian Boyd, Denning says the author scientifically explains why storytelling is important. Essentially, when people are treated like machines, as seen in many 20th Century analytically-based organizations, they eventually become dispirited and disengaged, just working for the paycheck. Any sense of being fired up by the organization’s mission quickly dissipates. But that won’t work anymore.

Storytelling has gained increased recognition as a valuable tool as we’ve entered the 21st Century, the book’s author says, because it is a central component of innovation, serving as a stimulus for creative thinking and new possibilities. As many other researchers and social scientists have explained in recent years, stories are the way people make sense of the world; when the brain is overwhelmed with data, it organizes the most important facts into a story, which also helps a person remember the data. Human beings have been making sense of their world through stories for so long, in fact, that social scientists say storytelling is imbedded in our DNA.

Has your organization embraced storytelling as a critical leadership and management tool? If not, it runs a high risk of being left behind in the new economy. With success determined by the ability to innovate, the winners will be those who tell the right stories to not only engage their people but to inspire innovative thinking.