Why aren’t we using more stories in business?

By May 21, 2015Storytelling

Psychology studies repeatedly show how story deeply influences our attitudes, beliefs and decisions. Yet despite the importance that persuasion plays in ensuring you get the outcome you want for your business, most executives admit that they struggle to communicate clearly and fail to inspire. Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology reveals that a staggering 85% of individuals’ financial success is down to that person’s ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Just 15% was attributed to technical knowledge. Yet even the smartest leaders quickly slip into the cold world of acronyms and jargon in an attempt to persuade.

You know the drill: they open a 60 slide presentation and bulldoze their way through the deck that’s stacked with logic. But as research has shown pure reasoning may make the logical point, but it seldom moves people to action. On the other hand, a well-told story has the ability to communicate directly to the cognitive subconscious and create an emotional reaction, which is important as most changes in attitude and decision-making are made at an emotional level rather than at the rational level. Of course we are experts at post-rationalising our decisions and providing a perfectly sane narrative to justify why we made the choices we did, but the truth is the real decisions we make, big and small, are made in the limbic part of the brain, the part that handles emotion. We rationalise those decisions after the event – and let’s be honest, if all our decisions were made through the absolute application of rational thinking then we would never actually make a decision as we couldn’t physically amass and compute all the possible variables.

Without emotion, we are biologically incapable of making decisions. If you think that the emotional sale is only effective for B2C and won’t work for B2B where product specs and value propositions rule the buyer’s decision-making then you need to think again. Research carried out recently by Google revealed that B2B brands provoke an emotional connection with more than 50% of their customers. That’s compared to 10-40% for B2C. Yep, the emotional connection between buyer and seller for the B2B sale is crucial. Let’s be clear, the real decisions we make in life and in business are hugely influenced by our emotions. Rational facts delivered in isolation are often considered dull, easily forgotten and at worst can be viewed as a threat. But if you take the facts and envelop them with stories they can be transformed into something that provides context, sustains attention and makes them more persuasive. So if emotions create behaviour change and stories create emotions, why aren’t we using more stories in business? Could it be because stories can appear too simplistic in today’s complex world? Is it that some organisations encourage staff to communicate via artificial languages and acronyms that don’t lend well to storytelling? Or is it the word story? Does that word conjure up negative associations with rumours, tales and, worse still, lies? I believe the simple reason businesses don’t use more stories is that most people have little or no idea how to actually create one.

Most of the information available on how to write a business story is either far too complex to be of any use or oversimplified to the point that it only offers a few hints on the subject. That’s why I have made it my mission to put down on paper a process that will enable you to create your business story. Don’t get me wrong; I am not suggesting that my process is the only way a story can be created – that would be silly. What I am saying is that this process has been tested and proven to work. To make it as simple as possible, I’ve broken the process down into five linear steps that are easy to follow. This 5-step process will enable you to quickly create compelling stories that can be used in all areas of your business. Once you understand the process for creating a story, you can tell that story everywhere, regardless of whether you are speaking to one person or blogging to millions. So if you want to be more persuasive, make the intangible tangible, simplify the complex and connect with people emotionally then it’s time for you to understand the basic principles of how a story is constructed.

Want to know how to create your story and apply it to your content? Download How to Apply Story to Your Content for free!

David Sloly, Founding Partner at HarveyDavid. Follow HarveyDavid and David for more insights.