"Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today." - Robert McKee.
It was purely by accident that I found out the power of storytelling. In the early '90s, while working for a high technology company, I was asked to substitute for a sick instructor at the last minute. The only thing that qualified me for that class was that I had taken it before, and had demonstrated good use of techniques that were taught.
With no formal training about conducting training, I was nervous about facing an audience of very smart technical and business people. To break the ice (and to also break my nervousness), I tried to explain the concepts and formulas by narrating stories and drawing analogies form real life situations. I guess it worked so well that my sidekick (after being an engineer) after that day became a trainer too.
The subject of communication and persuasion through storytelling has gained great interest in the corporate world, and many books and executive training programs have been created on the subject. Here are some points to ponder about this subject from some well known people:
"Facts don't persuade, feelings do. And stories are the best way to get at those feelings"
- Tom Asacker.
"Why story telling? Nothing else worked. Charts left listeners bemused. Prose remained unread. Dialog was just too laborious and slow. Time after time, when faced with the task of persuading a group of managers or front life staff in a large organization, to get enthusiastic about a major change I found that storytelling was the only thing that worked."
- Stephen Denning in 'The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations'.
"Because there is a natural storytelling urge and ability in all human beings, even just a little nurturing of this impulse can bring about astonishing and delightful results."
-Nancy Mellon, in 'The Art of Storytelling'.
"Why was Solomon recognized as the wisest man in the world? Because he knew more stories (proverbs) than anyone else. Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom and we're all just cavemen with briefcases, hungry for a wise person to tell us stories."
- Alan Kay, vice president at Walt Disney.
Reflection: from Anthony De Mello
"It is a great mystery that though the human heart longs for Truth in which it alone it finds liberation and delight, the first reaction of human beings to Truth is one of hostility and fear. So the Spiritual Teachers of humanity created a device to circumvent the opposition of their listeners: the story.
They knew that the most entrancing words a language holds are 'Once upon a time...,' that it is common to oppose a truth but impossible to resist a story. Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, says that if you listen carefully to a story you will never be the same again. That is because the story will worm its way into your heart and break down the barriers to the divine.
You have to understand, my dears, that the shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story."