Sunday, March 6, 2011

Purposeful Storytelling

Times are tough.  Nothing's certain.  Fear is rampant.

On the blog for Harvard Business Review, movie magnate Peter Guber warns that "if leaders don't tell and sell a purposeful story that incites their employees, partners, investors, boards of directors, and other stakeholders to manage fear, confront uncertainty, and collaborate with change, someone else will write their future."

So what is a purposeful story?  Guber defines it as a "a vehicle that puts facts into an emotional context." 

A purposeful story is "built to create suspense and engage your listener in its call to action."

But a purposeful story also lays to rest your audience's fears, Guber says.  "Leaders must tell a story that makes fear an ally, not an adversary, ultimately conveying the message that fear—F.E.A.R—is 'false evidence appearing real.'"

By way of illustration, Guber recounts how he convinced Loews to build super-mulitplex theaters in Manhattan in the early 1990s.

Loews resisted his idea for the mammoth movie theaters, afraid the city was already overbuilt.  So Guber turned to storytelling.

"I first engaged them with a question.  I asked: What if a group of hungry people went into a large food emporium?  If one particular food was missing or sold out, there was so much else there they could choose from.

"We should make movies that people consume emotionally with the same availability as a food court.  If the movie that brought you to the theater is sold out, there were 15 or 16 other movies to consume and enjoy."

Loews bought Guber's tale and built the theaters, which became "an enormous success."

Guber believes purposeful storytelling provides people a form of "emotional transportation" that can move them from Point A to B. 

"Your story and its supporting facts transport the people who hear them to carry your story forward," he writes.  "Good stories, well told, turn people into apostles and advocates of your brand, service, mission or cause."

Do you have a story to tell?
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