In her Harvard Business Review article, "How to Tell a Great Story" (found here: ), Carolyn O'Hara points out how learning to tell a good story can be a very effective means to communicate in the business world.  Among other things she points out:

  • "business leaders 'won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories'"
  • "'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...'  But stories create 'sticky' memories by attaching emotions to things that happen."
  • Do:  Consider your audience — choose a framework and details that will best resonate with your listeners. Identify the moral or message your want to impart. Find inspiration in your life experiences.
  • Don’t:  Assume you don’t have storytelling chops — we all have it in us to tell memorable stories. Give yourself the starring role. Overwhelm your story with unnecessary details.

Ms. O'Hara closes her article with two case studies.

The first is a case study of a CEO who is worried about his company continuing to be creative and forging on in the face of great success. As there are no tough competitors in his company's space, he makes up a (obviously) fictitious company and from time to time touts their inroads and successes as points to launch inspiration from.

The second is about a man who enters the business world and finds a great opportunity to do good in the world through the inspiration and guidance of a great mentor, who incidentally, ends up succumbing to cancer.

Both of these cases are great fodder for stories that inspire, motivate, and could be used to prompt new, exciting, or creative thinking.

What is your view about using stories in the business world to communicate and persuade? Do you use stories? Have you been the recipient of hearing a great story in a business setting that changed you in some positive way?


mrreliable's picture

 A true story I use to convey the importance of being clear with communication and make sure you provide enough information so people know what you're trying to convey.

I'm a former girls fastpitch softball coach and have worked with players at all age levels. One summer I had a team of nine-year-old beginners. From the start I would teach them to go well beyond their comfort level in terms of aggressive base running. They wouldn't get a candy bar for successfully stealing a base in a game. They'd get a candy bar if they were so aggressive they got thrown out trying to stretch it too far.

Again and again, I'd say, "If you never get thrown out, you're not being aggressive enough." By getting thrown out they'd learn how far they could stretch it, which was about 50 times further than they thought.

One time in a huddle at practice, after I said, "If you never get thrown out you're not being aggressive enough," the littlest kid on the team raised her hand.

"Coach, you said you want us to get thrown out. Do you mean we're supposed to argue with the umpire?"

From then on I changed the direction to, "If you never get thrown out trying to steal a base, you're not being aggressive enough."







jchadwick's picture