Why storytelling is like barefoot walking

Can storytelling be the ultimate tool to get the meeting, engage the audience, and/or close the deal? Yes, says former chairman of Sony Pictures and current CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group, Peter Guber in his book titled Tell to Win. In it Peter gives the reader so many useful storytelling tips that are simple to understand, and, with a little bit of practice, practical to master. I enjoyed reading Peter’s new book, and I highly recommend it.

But I should also tell you about the big shocker I found in it. Here it is: believe it or not, in my opinion, the most insightful nugget told in this book about WHY telling stories is a key business skill did not come from Peter Guber. Yep, you heard it right. In a refreshingly simple, elegant & streamlined manner, it was actually Steve Denning who delivered the most insightful remark about why storytelling is so important. (Steve is the former director of knowledge management at the World Bank and the author of the award winning books The Secret Language of Leadership and the Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, which illustrates the key advantage of storytelling). Here’s what Steve said when Peter asked him why do so many businesses people discount or completely ignore storytelling:

Denning pointed out that our educational system puts a premium on intellectual reasoning at the expense of emotion. Learning becomes increasingly conceptual and impersonal as you move into graduate degrees. And because the professional world is dominated by university graduates, businesspeople now take it for granted that theoretical and statistical models are worth more than stories.

But that does not mean that stories go away! “Whenever we relax with our friends outside of school or the office,” Steve said, “we lapse right back into story telling. We are at home with it. So why not communicate with people in their native language?”
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My 2¢: Have you ever walked barefoot along a sandy beach, or on the grass in a park? Did you enjoy it? Good storytelling is similar to barefoot walking—it’s all about removing the barriers, being authentic and in tune with your surroundings. Communicating through storytelling is like going barefoot: simple and natural way of being. Now think about communicating through those theoretical and statistical models often used in the modern business world. Doesn’t it feel like wearing shoes all day long? Do you enjoy wearing shoes all day long?