Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. For thousands of years people have used stories to entertain, educate and inform. Stories contain powerful metaphors and images that have a profound effect on how we view the world. And more and more people have been stressing the importance of storytelling in business – whether that be in pitching for business, making a presentation or selling yourself.
It’s not hard to see why. We now know that people make decisions emotionally and later seek to justify them rationally and they remember images better than they retain figures.
Therefore, creating a power narrative and story is a key way to not only engage but persuade people.
But is there such a thing as too much story? What happens when something becomes all story and no substance?
A story might sound plausible but it is actually true?
Rudyard Kipling was a master storyteller. In 1902 he wrote ‘Just so stories’ a collection of stories for children that explained how different animals got their characteristics, such as how the elephant got its trunk.
These stories were wonderfully entertaining and full of evocative language and imagery – what child would forget the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo river?
But the stories were wholly fictitious.
However plausible it might sound – especially to impressionable 8 year olds - the Elephant didn’t get his trunk because a crocodile grabbed his nose as he drank from the river and stretched it.
Stories can be powerful devices for communication but that doesn’t mean we should not listen to them critically.
So next time you are listening to a fabulous story think: is this story helping explain something or is it merely entertainment? Can what you are being told be verified or is it no more than a just so story?
Remember for all the power of stories just because something sounds good doesn’t make it true.
Paul is Global Head of Strategy at Vizeum. He is a Global Strategist with experience that spans a variety of sectors (CPG, Tech, Pharma and Finance) and disciplines (Media, Advertising, CRM and Sales Promotion). He is responsible for European Strategy across all Starcom Global Network Clients including Samsung, P&G, Coke, Airbnb, Novartis, Etihad, Mars. Paul holds a Bachelor in Biological Sciences, Zoology from the University of Oxford.