This week I happened on a recommendation someone had posted.
So?! You are probably saying. What is so impressive about that? Many people post recommendations and thank others for assistance they had provided. Many recommend a service provider that has delivered a great experience. Not unusual.
What struck me here was not the fact it was a thank you; it is true that many people just don’t say thank you often enough. It was also not as much the quality of the reference; that was EXCEPTIONAL.
It was the detail contained in the recommendation. It was descriptive, full of emotion. It was a story.
The writer provided a small glimpse into the emotional situation before they received assistance, simple facts on what was done to move along the continuum, and a couple of statistics to demonstrate the rapid change. The words did not explicitly describe, but did show, enormous relief that must have come with the improvement. The reader gets to feel how the situation changed and knows exactly why this recommendation was written.
Why care? Why read?
There was no reason for me to read the entire recommendation. I am not in the market for the business of either the service provider or the recipient. But I did read on! Eager to see how it was resolved, what the outcome was, and if there was more to be understood.
Why is it we as humans will always pay more attention to a story? And why do we remember something we learn as a story so much better than the same learning as a list of facts? We could grasp the facts much faster than the time spent to hear the full story, but the emotion of a story drags us in.
The MRI says
The scientific explanation is that facts and stories activate different parts of the brain. Facts activate data processing centres and stories sensory centres. The sensory then trigger an increase in oxytocin (the feel good hormone that positively influences social behaviour). Okay … more facts!
Research at Princeton University proved something interesting. With a well told story speakers’ and listeners’ brains light up in the same areas on an MRI i.e. as if the listener is experiencing the story.
Story telling business value
Marketers use this fact to the advantage of the product they are promoting. But have you considered using stories throughout your company?
Look at the strategic and financial management side, do you report facts and numbers? Or do you experience your story in full colour?
Does your team feel the thrill of the cash and profit increases? The pain of the bad customer reference that lost a sale, wasted time to make it right, and resulted in you looking for a new component supplier? And just how much that really cost?
Stories published and told
Publicly listed companies are required to publish a “management discussion and analysis” with every set of financial statements. Tell investors the story of what has happened during that time period, what the company plans to do, and what the challenges may be on that journey, with how it all impacts the financial results. Unfortunately, too few use these stories well.
But, what about the larger number of businesses? Those that are private, smaller or family business, not-for-profit … they have so much to gain in telling their stories. Also here too few use the stories well.
Stories to link facts, emotion and themes
- pulls together facts from across the business,
- cuts across silos, and
- provides meaning to the numbers and statistics that landed in the financial statements.
The worst report a shareholder, board director, or anyone can receive is a boring list of statistics, financial results, or facts!
Do you look for and share your stories regularly? Do you interpret what the facts in one situation tell about another situation? And are there different scenes or characters in the same story?
Stories build and unify
One of the best ways to build company culture is for everyone to share in the stories that tell of
- company values,
- the company’s origin,
- success, challenge and failure.
When your executives produce the financial statements, the operations reports, the sales reports, do you see each one as a self-contained set of data, as a set of numbers or words, as finite facts?
Or do you put them together, add colour, analyze the message and themes … understand how each one supports or leads to other facts? Do you fully use your best weapon?
What is the story your company has told this week?
Do you want to improve your reports or effectively include facts, stories and interpretation for your business team?
Consider reaching out here. Together we can make your business truly exceptional.