Sunday, October 14, 2001

13. The Story Factor

This is my current read: "The Story Factor: inspiration, influence, and persuasion through the art of storytelling," by Annette Simmons. 2001 Perseus Publishing

Highlight thus far:

pgs 34-37

"...Information overload, global organizations, cell phones, stepchildren, aging parent, too many self-help books, and a nagging urge to squeeze in a spiritual life is downright stressful. They find it impossible to skim, much less read, all the periodicals, books, and websites they find important. They can't possibly check off half the things on their 'to do' list and the latest 'org chart de jour' probably just deconstructed any rational hope they ever held of being rewarded for a job well done. A constant sense of incompetence and confusion lurks behind the walls people construct to keep you out. They do not want to learn about one more damn thing they should be doing that they are not doing or shouldn't be doing that they are. Already confused and overloaded, they assume that your added request will only make things worse.

"Not surprisingly, depression is at epidemic levels. Frustration and apathy are the norm. Many people have given up trying to figure out the 'right' thing to do and have defaulted to doing whatever seems easiest or 'right' for them, personally. People stop and rest once they feel they have figured out how to 'take care of number one,' and rarely make the heroic effort necessary to understand their role in the 'larger picture.'

"And here you are, trying to influence these people who have understandably defaulted to basic self-interest. They are either content in their little world or apathetic, frustrated, and secretly cynical about you and your goals. When you offer a story that helps them feel curious again or helps them make sense of their confusion, they will listen. If you can help people better understand what is going on, understand the plot (a plot, any plot) and their role in it, they will follow you. Once they believe in your story they may even start to lead the way. A story can transform the impotent and hopeless into a band of evangelist ready to spread the word. Why do you think religion is full of stories?

“…In a complex environment people listen to whomever makes the most sense--whomever tells the best story. If you still depend on linear analysis and facts to persuade others, then you can’t make sense. It is impossible. This is where Scott Adam’s ‘Dilbert’ gets his best jokes. To be clear in a complex world, the rational linear communicator is forced to either ridiculously oversimplify a situation or disappear into mumbo-jumbo like ‘the synergy of applying this marketing band-width across our products is obviously a value-added strategy.’

“…The reason our org charts change so quickly is that analytical, linear representations of reality are at best temporary--and at worst, pure nonsense. Reality in the information age is nonlinear. Actually, reality has always been nonlinear but things moved slowly enough that we could pretend that we lived in a linear and predictable world. Not anymore. If you’ve noticed, strategic planning in the traditional sense is passé. Five- and ten-year plans are becoming rather vague. Many companies are turning to metaphor and scenario planning to give direction to this unpredictable, highly complex, and ever-changing world in which we now live. In other words, they are using story to replace the old strategic plan’s goals/objectives/strategy format.”

:: Update: Never did finish this book.