The Shapes of Stories

This week, I will be teaching an online training workshop I named “The Bigger Story: Strategic Storytelling to Drive Profit and Engagement".

Anyone in a position where the art of strategy, storytelling and persuasion is essential could benefit from this class.

This particular session is for a group at Microsoft where most participants have an engineering background. If you’re one of them, this is especially for you.

What is a story exactly? What would be a great answer to that question if I were an engineer myself?

For this, and given storytelling is such a hot topic, I decided to research what already exists in the literature.

Just in the past 10 years or so, in the USA alone, I counted over 40 publications on the topic of business storytelling. But don’t quote me on that, I am sure there are way more, and if I go back in time, those 40 books are probably just the tip of a giant iceberg.

Every author added a bit more depth to the already rich concept of storytelling in the context of business, and each of them defined the benefits of using a story to solve a particular challenge. For example, in Lead With A Story, Paul Smith lists 21 common leadership situations where storytelling can help.

That said, the word story is a big buzzword in business.

When the VP of sales leans forward and asks “What’s our story?”, do you think she expects someone to answer with something that starts with “once upon a time”?

Well, no.

In this context, what we often understand by the word story is the logical sequence of facts, figures, statements and pieces of evidence that will make the content of a PowerPoint report.

In this context, there is actually no story most of the time, and that is very unfortunate because it makes everything boring.

Then, let’s agree to not use the word story is there is no story.

What is a story exactly?

Kurt Vonnegut tells us a story is a shape, one that computers can easily generate these days. How intriguing is that, my engineer friends?

The Shapes of Stories is a genius explanation that I encourage you to watch if you haven’t done so already. It is simple, emotional, memorable and not to mention fun. Three attributes of a great story.

A Musical Interlude
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