The Power of Storytelling

In an HBR article on using stories to overcome fear, Peter Guber describes how leaders can effectively use stories to build consensus. He relates his experience trying to convince Loews to build its first multiplex in Manhattan.

In telling my story, 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,” I told them. “If the movie that brought you to the theater is sold out, there were 15 or 16 other movies to consume and enjoy.” My management team bought into it and executed on the story. The result was the Sony 67th multiplex, which was an enormous success.

A story is a vehicle that puts facts into an emotional context. The information in a story doesn’t just sit there as it would in a list or data dump. Instead, it’s built to create suspense and engage your listener in its call to action. Facts and figures are memorable to computers, not to people. Research on memory conclusively shows that all the critical details, data, and analytics, are more effectively emotionalized and metabolized by the listener when they’re embedded in a story — and they become significantly more actionable.

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