Did you know that stories are 22 times more powerful than cold, hard facts?*
Stories. Everyone’s talking about them. But what does a story involve? Why are they so powerful? And, most importantly, how can we use story to help tackle the big engagement challenges businesses face today? Write the Talk’s Rachael Bull delves into the magical world of story science to reveal all.
Given that every story has a beginning, a middle and an end, let’s start at the beginning.
This is one of the earliest stories we know of – the Chauvet Cave painting, said to date back to 30,000 to 28,000 BC. While how we tell stories has changed a fair bit since then, why we tell stories hasn’t.
As humans, we’re social beings, which makes us inherent storytellers.
Our brains aren’t built to memorise lists or facts. They’re built to memorise stories. And to look for a narrative of cause and effect, tying it to something we’ve experienced before.
It’s why metaphors work so well – a picture is worth a thousand words, but a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures.
It’s also why we get so excited when John Lewis release their Christmas TV advert – a brilliant example of storytelling that excites and connects. And why we experienced a global frenzy when the final season of Game of Thrones finally aired.
Story engages parts of the brain that other forms of communication just can’t reach.
When you experience a good story, two key things happen:
⦁ The brain releases oxytocin, which causes empathy for the storyteller or main character. You literally fall in love with a good character (Ely Gold from The Good Wife, take a bow).
⦁ The brain releases cortisol, which focuses the audience’s attention over time. This is why you can’t put down a good book.
It literally changes our brain.
A good story (note the ‘good’) is the only way to activate these parts of the brain so that the audience turns the story into their own ideas and experience. Because of the way stories affect the brain, when done authentically and effectively, they help build trust.
They make people more receptive and emotionally connected, which in turn builds deeper and stronger relationships.
But how does this work in today’s world?
Let’s get one thing straight. This isn’t about manipulating people. It is about changing how they perceive something – and how they behave as a result.
Take the ‘Significant Objects’ social experiment, where two guys in the US got 150 writers to each buy an item costing $1.25 from a thrift store and challenged them to write a story for that item and sell it on eBay with their crafted narrative, their photo and byline.
The results? The 150 items sold for $8000, roughly a $50 gain for each item The verdict being that stories are a driver of emotional value – they transform insignificant objects into significant objects.
Stories work, no doubt about it.
We bring that extraordinary story power to the challenge of boosting engagement in organisations the world over.
Through our unique story shaping programme, we create compelling, long-running stories that get cortisol and oxytocin pumping.
Not just clever launch vids or animations (although we’re great at them, too) but distinctive, textured stories that take people on a journey through a change management or employee engagement programme.
Stories that spark emotional connection and build trust. Stories that change the way people think and behave.
What story do you want running in your organisation? What change do you want to create?
Get in touch with our story shaping experts and we’ll uncover it together.
*The irony in this statement isn’t lost on me.