The Narrative Design Explorer. Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling. It is quiet and dark.
The theater is hushed. James Bond skirts along the edge of a building as his enemy takes aim. Here in the audience, heart rates increase and palms sweat. I know this to be true because instead of enjoying the movie myself, I am measuring the brain activity of a dozen viewers. For me, excitement has a different source: I am watching an amazing neural ballet in which a story line changes the activity of people’s brains.
Many business people have already discovered the power of storytelling in a practical sense – they have observed how compelling a well-constructed narrative can be. As social creatures, we depend on others for our survival and happiness. More recently my lab wondered if we could “hack” the oxytocin system to motivate people to engage in cooperative behaviors. In subsequent studies we have been able to deepen our understanding of why stories motivate voluntary cooperation. My research has also shown that stories are useful inside organizations.
How Stories Change the Brain. Ben’s dying.
That’s what Ben’s father says to the camera as we see Ben play in the background. Ben is two years old and doesn’t know that a brain tumor will take his life in a matter of months. Ben’s father tells us how difficult it is to be joyful around Ben because the father knows what is coming. But in the end he resolves to find the strength to be genuinely happy for Ben’s sake, right up to Ben’s last breath. Everyone can relate to this story. A recent analysis identifies this “hero’s journey” story as the foundation for more than half of the movies that come out of Hollywood, and countless books of fiction and nonfiction. Why are we so attracted to stories? Why the brain loves stories The first part of the answer is that as social creatures who regularly affiliate with strangers, stories are an effective way to transmit important information and values from one individual or community to the next.
Think of this as the “car accident effect.” What makes a story effective? How to Tell a Great Story. We tell stories to our coworkers and peers all the time — to persuade someone to support our project, to explain to an employee how he might improve, or to inspire a team that is facing challenges. It’s an essential skill, but what makes a compelling story in a business context? And how can you improve your ability to tell stories that persuade? What the Experts Say In our information-saturated age, business leaders “won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories,” says Nick Morgan, author of Power Cues and president and founder of Public Words, a communications consulting firm. “Facts and figures and all the rational things that we think are important in the business world actually don’t stick in our minds at all,” he says. But stories create “sticky” memories by attaching emotions to things that happen.
Start with a message Every storytelling exercise should begin by asking: Who is my audience and what is the message I want to share with them? Principles to Remember Do: Don’t: The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool. It’s not often that you hear Budweiser and Shakespeare mentioned in the same breath.
But according to new research from Johns Hopkins University, the Bard’s deft application of storytelling techniques featured prominently in the beer company’s Super Bowl commercial. In “Puppy Love,” a perfectly adorable yellow lab becomes inseparable friends with a Clydesdale. Sneaking out of his pen, the pup and the horse “talk” in the stables and cavort on an idyllic farm –until someone comes to adopt the dog.
The distressed puppy whines and places his paws against the window of the car set to take him to his new home. All seems lost until the Clydesdale rallies the other horses to stop the vehicle from leaving. Forget the fact that Anheuser-Busch’s 60-second spot (which cost north of $4 million) aired close to the end of a lopsided championship game that was over before halftime. The irresistible power of classic storytelling. If Keith Quesenberry were a betting man, he would have cleaned up.