What’s the Story?

Dave Pollard offers some useful commentary on — and consideration of — the role stories can play in a project. Addressing the information and entertainment value stories have as tools to help influence and inspire behavior in a team setting, Pollard concludes that a good story is like a good gift.

Good stories, like good gifts, seem to have one or more of five qualities:

  • Evocative — they provoke a profound intellectual, emotional, or sensual response.
  • Transporting — they ‘carry the recipient’ to another place, another time, by imagery or memory or resonance
  • Persuasive — they cause a fundamental shift in thinking or perception
  • Memorable — they leave something behind that the recipient will hold for a long time
  • Useful — they make something the recipient needs to do easier, faster, or more pleasurable

His conclusions reminded me of a piece Harriet Rubin wrote for Fast Company in 1998. Looking at how the best storytellers win, she highlights five qualities:

  • Storytellers don’t bother with the distinction between dreams and reality.
  • Storytellers don’t draw intellectual boundaries.
  • Storytellers play with time and space.
  • Storytellers know how to find characters to work with.
  • Storytellers respect history.

Kenny Moore, corporate ombudsman for Keyspan, knows how to stage a good story. How do you use stories in your organization? What kinds of stories catch on and become part of the corporate culture and lore?