Do You Master The Power of Storytelling?


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Stories are a fascinating subject.

I like this post from Bruce Kasanoff. He shares with us the story of a skiing excursion he took with his client 20 years ago. He presents it as a story, an exciting one, to “show you—rather than tell you—how memory works.” He goes on to explain how stories are an essential way to lead others, raise money or sell an idea or product. I couldn’t agree with him more on this point.

We’ve seen that stories are powerful and can make executives move. Stories often have the power to get executives to do something—without having to bother with “fill a business case template and go through the company process of prioritizing ideas for the next budget year blah blah….” You know, all the stuff that gets in the way of getting things done!

Why do stories elicit this response? Unlike “data & stats” that people can argue about for days and contribute to death by analysis, stories appeal to the right brain. It is as the Canadian Neurologist Donald Calne said:

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

I’m sure we can all agree action trumps conclusions when it comes to Customer Experience.

To make a decision, we often need to feel an emotion. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people recovering from brain injuries, in which only the part of their brain impaired was where emotions were generated. The result was in practice they found it very difficult to make decisions about where to live, what to eat, etc.

Stories could be the means to inject emotion into decision-making. A study from Princeton University, where a speaker would tell a story to a listener found “when the two people communicate, neural activity over wide regions of their brains becomes almost synchronous, with the listener’s brain activity patterns mirroring those sweeping through the speaker’s brain, albeit with a short lag of about one second.” So by telling a story you can portray the emotions from the story to the audience and make them empathetic to the Customer. In other words, you can make executives feel the same way as Customers.

This clip by Paul Zak explains how this works:

For this reason, as “evangelists” of CX inside the organization, Customer Experience professionals need to use stories.

Stories can also “sell”. Here’s a story credited with $2 billion of revenue. I am sure many of you reading this would rather be the president than the middle manager. If only you could have read this letter, huh?

Your Brain on Stories

So what makes a great story? According to Kasanoff, it needs to evoke emotion, spark mental images, be shocking and visual, it should tell a story, and it should exaggerate. Author Roger Dooley, consultant and entrepreneur, lists other attributes, including how you deliver the story (with pauses and pacing and what not), the imagery you create, as well as including realistic associations that have a universal understanding to name a few. You probably have a few tricks for story telling up your sleeve as well.

In our work with companies we often hear an anecdote, a story that circulates the organization by word of mouth and portrays the importance of CX. We heard such stories from FedEx, Orange, Caterpillar, and others we have worked with over the years. We use them all the time to illustrate for others the importance of what we are trying to achieve, and also to inspire them to commit fully to the principles we are teaching them.

As the CX champion in your organization, don’t forget the power of stories when you are trying to affect change. Using a powerful story might be the difference between getting assigned to a committee for death by analysis or getting swift action to accomplish your goal.

If you have great stories that led to change, we’ll be interested to hear them. Please share your STORIES in the comments below.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Zhecho Dobrev
Zhecho Dobrev is a Senior Consultant at Beyond Philosophy with 7 years of management consultancy experience and more than10,000 hours devoted to becoming an expert in customer experience management. He has worked with a wide range of sectors and countries. Some of his clients includeCaterpillar, FedEx, American Express, Heineken, Michelin etc. Zhecho's expertise includes conducting customer research on what drives customer behavior, journey mapping, customer complaints, measurement, training and more. He holds an MBA and Master's degree in International Relations.


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