Influence Through Storytelling

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Information about Influence Through Storytelling

Published on March 7, 2009

Author: joyce_hostyn



From a workshop I facilitated at Vizthink 2009 on why stories are more effective than fact based methods at communicating complex ideas and inspiring people to want to change.

Influence through storytelling Joyce Hostyn Senior Director, Experience Design Open Text

amount of evidence of sabotage or treason against Japanese-American citizens

The very fact that no sabotage has taken place is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken. General John DeWitt,WWII

problem with facts power of story using story to effect change

but before I start, I have a confession to make

I’m not a natural born storyteller

can’t draw


I believe powerfully

in the power of story

in visual thinking

I have never given a single presentation on “why we need to do experience design”

have never bothered cost justifying usability


I’ve built successful experience design teams

and I’m on a mission to effect change through storytelling & design

What I’ve learned from my experience

You can use stories

and visual thinking

to influence people

and effect change

A health worker in Zambia, was struggling to find a solution for treating malaria. In this tiny and remote rural town, the health worker logged on to the Web site of the U.S.’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention and got an answer. [The World Bank] doesn’t have its know-how and expertise organized so that someone like the health worker in Zambia can have access to it. But just imagine if it did Stephen Denning

What I’ll cover Three brain theory Some basics of storytelling The art of possibility

but first

Draw your life 2 wants (hopes for future) 4 you (reactions to idea of engaging people) current people 1 reality 3(important (parts that to your stand out) life)

three brain theory

we need to rethink a few assumptions

the assumptions being Our model of the world is reality We are aware of what we do We know why we do what we do We remember things as they really happened

in other words, our assumption that people are rational

recent brain research tells us unconscious mind controls up to 95% of behavior

We have three brains

unconscious mind controls 95% of behaviour

Lizard brain

fight flight freeze

can’t distinguish imagined reality from actuality

Is it safe?

Mammal brain emotions memories habits

tacit or embodied (know-how)

confidence is built on the experience of success

When we leap to a decision or have a hunch, our unconscious is... sifting through the situation in front of us, throwing out all that is irrelevant while we zero in on what really matters. Malcom Gladwell, Blink

Human brain reasons rationalizes

became prized during age of enlightenment

explicit or theoretical (know-why) 10 steps for organizational change 4 components for a balanced scorecard

mammal brain makes decisions

human brain rationalizes them

we buy on emotion and justify with fact

They come to act like rewards, and salad of the rest of the perfectly brain adapts itself grilled to predict and woodsy- woodsy- acquire them… It’s flavored a proxy for the calamari reward to come. Read Montague Why Choose This Book?

logic emotions, memories, habits

We think our models of the world are reality

Meet Harry example from Roger Martin, The Opposable Mind



I really like Innovate Corporation. It’s been an innovative leader for a long time. But I’m coming under increasing pressure and have to make trade-offs.

Customers value leadership and innovation. Customers are feeling intense cost pressure.

Customers will stick with us if we continue to innovate and lead. Customers will migrate away from us due to cost concerns and our pricing.

Innovation and leadership are the most critical avenues to pursue. We’ve got to get our costs down so we can be price competitive.

I really like Innovate Corporation. It’s been an innovative leader for a long time. But I’m coming under increasing pressure and have to make trade-offs.

quot;A way of seeing is also a way of not seeing.quot; Kenneth Burke

We often don't see what’s before our eyes. We see our concept of what reality should be… …what we expect to see.

our reality illusion is in place

and our experiences will tend to reinforce our initial stance

as we weave those experiences into the story that already exists in our minds

Rarely pausing to consciously inspect the state & activity of our unconscious mind

we make sense of the world through stories

story is the emotional experience

the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say

Just the facts, mam

Too often communicating like this • 981 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2000 • Out of 420 pedestrian fatalities, 38 per cent of those tested for alcohol had been drinking, and most of these had BACs over 0.08. • Almost nine out of every 10 people killed in alcohol- related collisions (87.4 per cent) were in or on the drinking driver's vehicle (i.e. drivers/operators or passengers). • Almost nine out of every 10 drivers killed in alcohol- related collisions (87.5 per cent) were male. • Over half (56 per cent) of the drivers killed in single- vehicle crashes tested positive for alcohol, compared to only 20 per cent of those killed in multiple-vehicle crashes.

Expecting listeners to accept the facts Everyone knows the You pulled those media exaggerates numbers out of thin air That’s actually not a lot

Instead of telling stories

Facts are meaningless without a contextual story

War is evil. It’s always evil. It represents a massive human failure and never truly resolves anything.

Evil exists in the world. If left unchecked, it can spread like a deadly disease.


We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally twisting proved wrong, impudently the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield. George Orwell

Facts are, quot;like fish in the Ocean,quot; that we may only happen to catch a few, only an indication of what is below the surface. E. H. Carr What is History?

Fact is not dialog

Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving there's no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. John Kenneth Galbraith

using facts kicks in the confirmation bias

People don't need new facts. They need a new story. Annette Simmons The Story Factor

three aspects of story Listening Thinking Telling

Listening for stories

WHO is your who?

Conversations at the water cooler

use the 5 whys to get to the real story

Collect and capture stories

Using emotional words frustrated elated angry exhausted awed timid disappointed stressed excited joyous confident nervous kindness honored depressed fearful shocked friendship hopeful relaxed proud despondent happy courageous accepted disgusted embarrassed amused surprise worried unhappy jealous close pity remorse sad appreciated distant respect

Practice empathy, seek to understand first, and assume the best motives in others

Who needs to change? Map their current ecosystem Wants Motivators Influencers Environment/context Tell a story of why they don’t want to change from their perspective

learn to see the stories around you

Thinking with stories

use stories to think

Telling stories

Draw a timeline of Key dates • Incidents • Experiences that shaped you • Trials and turning points that tested you • Stories of childhood, family, school, loves • Development of political views •

OMG new mom, new city, no job China nephew not a boss from acquired trip 1962 arrives nurse hell (again) Joan farm garden bound new boss passed over Sasha not a key Disney new prof from (again) school patrol arrives employee pitch boss hell

six story types Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, Annette Simmons

People prefer not to trust you

ambitious, greedy, inexperienced, dumb

who I am break through the worst case stories they tell themselves about you with a story that builds faith in you

Mine your timeline for stories HavenTree OMG pregnant, new city, no job nephew not a boss from acquired again 1962 arrives nurse hell Joan farm garden bound boss laid passed over Sasha Disney prof from not a key China off school patrol arrives pitch hell employee trip

why I am here exposes what’s in it for you or people tend to make up ‘rat’ reasons

teaching combine what with how less about what you want than how you want it done “What would <insert person here> do?”

vision what’s in it for them so they can imagine the payoff in the future

values in action about doing the right thing values create culture and culture creates values

I know what you’re thinking we don’t come into a room with open minds, we already have a narrative in our head: “this is bullshit” brings an issue into the open and reframes it “I felt exactly the way you feel now”

good stories create an experience in images that evokes an emotional response

Carter's confidence, energy and intensely emotional delivery make her talks themselves a force of nature Guy Kawasaki on passion Majora Carter’s TED talk

To provide food for her family, Sufiya worked all day in her muddy yard making bamboo stools.Yet somehow her hard work was unable to life her family out of Why? poverty. curiosity Muhammad Yunus pioneer of the microcredit movement



emotional connection


stories let gut feeling talk to gut feeling

if what we see is a representation of reality

stories are one of the most effective ways in which we communicate our view of reality to others

transporting people to different points of view reframing what facts mean to them

tell stories to connect

People don't believe what you tell them They rarely believe what you show them They often believe what their friends tell them They always believe what they tell themselves What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves Stories about the future and about change Seth Godin,Tribes

we are all storytellers

Who needs to change? Create a story that speaks to the person you want to change

battle between two wolves

the one you feed

which one are you feeding?

what stories are you telling to yourself, about yourself?

Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that. Erich Heller, British philosopher

What’s the biggest thing stopping you from effecting change?

NOT other people

A hint

judgment fear of

failure fear of

status preoccupation with

uncertainty fear of

unpredictability aversion to

choosing fear of

All of us construct narratives about ourselves – where we’ve come from, where we’re going. The kinds of stories we tell make an enormous difference in how well we cope with change. Hermina Ibarra and Kent Lineback,What’s Your Story?

To effect change

you need to take charge of your story

because it’s the only story you truly have control over

the art of possibility The most important story you will ever tell author your own about yourself is the story you tell to yourself. hero’s journey

your To be authentic is literally to be own author... to discover your native energies and desires, and then find your way of acting on them. Warren Bennis, An Invented Life

Kathy Sierra

emotion & imagination can rewire our brains

from victim (acted on)

they would never let us

nobody around here could ever do that

there’s no point in even trying

that’s not possible

to hero (actor)

I will

I can’t

I believe

I choose

I choose not

I have a dream Martin Luther King Jr.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. Leo Tolstoy

If you keep doing what you’ve always done… The most important story you will ever tell about yourself is the story you tell to yourself.

based on assumptions

the bedrock of your worldview

that you’re not aware you’re making

you have no control over your story

Are your beliefs and values helping take your story where you Beliefs and values are not inherited or coded in the genes. They are assumptions about life. want to go?

As long as you’re making assumptions…

why not make assumptions that make you more powerful and effective


who you are

what you want to do

what you believe in

what you aspire to

Invent your future reality

Expand your WANTS into a vision of your future reality • Keywords of desired future or change you want to implement • Elements • Language • Results • Influencers

Paint a vivid picture of your future story

rich with emotion & visuals

tell your future story to others

create a new language

vision gap reality

you to do things, you're got to To get create a purpose and a story so compelling that you are moved to make those corrections in your life, and make them for good. Geoffrey M. Bellman Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge

gives you




and you WILL effect change if you

believe it

are authentic


and live it

learn to see

The real voyage of discovery consists not in making new landscapes but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust



the whole system

seek to understand

the language that binds you

how the situation occurs to you & others

stories you tell yourself

stories you tell others

stories you tell ABOUT others

EMBRACE the dark side

not being picked a captain of the school patrol

boss from hell

discovering I’m not a key employee

start telling stories

be yourself

with passion

using stories

to effect change

in yourself

your organization

your community

the world

because it’s all invented

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