Category Archives: Storytelling


Reduce Evaluator Bias: Showcase Best Features in Any Offer

Less can be more when designing offers, whether when offering services in job applications, crafting sales offers, or positioning for advantage in any negotiation.

Kimberlee Weaver

Kimberlee Weaver

Kimberlee Weaver of Virginia Tech and University of Michigan’s Stephen Garcia and Norbert Schwarz showed that more is not better in augmenting offers when additional elements are of lower quality.

Stephen Garcia

Stephen Garcia

Using the Presenter’s Paradox in a series of studies, they showed that positive impressions can be reduced when they are presented in the company of lower value items.

Norbert Schwartz

Norbert Schwartz

Weaver, Garcia and Schwarz offered volunteer “buyers” different iPod Touch packages: iPod and cover OR this package with a free music download.

“Buyers”, on average, offered to pay more for the lesser package, and sellers inaccurately expected that buyers would prefer the fully-featured package.
This suggests that expectations about consumer preferences may be poor predictors of people’s actual selection and purchasing behaviors.

The average price offered for the basic package, iPod and cover was $242, but the package with one free song download averaged just $177.
The additional feature reduced package’s perceived value by more than 25%.

Those designing and evaluating offers can mitigate the impact of this judgment bias by considering the value of the overall offering, then eliminating lower-value components that might reduce the comprehensive value.

This is relevant to job seekers who might be tempted to “pad” a resume with low-value activities, accomplishments and skills.
Weaver, Schwartz, and Garcia’s findings suggest that showcasing most compelling capabilities provides a more power presentations of personal and product attributes.

Santa Clara University’s Jerry Burger might argue that “more might be more” when he found that Steve Jobs’s “that’s-not-all” (TNA) technique was more effective than the much-researched “door-in-the-face” (DITF) approach in gaining agreement to sales propositions.

Jerry Burger

Jerry Burger

That’s-not-all” offers a product at a high price, then doesn’t allowing the volunteer to respond immediately.
The procedure follows up by augmenting the offer with another product or lowering the price.

Burger found “that’s-not-all” produced superior simulated sales outcomes to the much-researched “door-in-the face” (DITF) approach, which presents an unreasonably high offer, then follows with a more acceptable proposal.

Numerous replications of “door-in-the-face” have shown than people are more likely to agree to a second more modest request after an unreasonable high first proposal.
Even when the same offer is presented as a single offer, people are significantly more likely to accept it when it’s presented after an unreasonable proposal.

Burger suggested that “that’s-not-all” may have produced greater compliance because people felt obliged to respond to a new offer through an implicit norm of reciprocity,  and because the augmented offer changed the perceived anchor point that volunteers used to evaluate the offer.

-*How do you mitigate bias in evaluating offers?
-*How do you design the most attractive offer when offering something for sale?
-*Which technique for designing offers has been most persuasive to you as a purchaser?

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How to Change Habits: Jamming the “Flywheel of Society”

William James

William James

William James, father of American psychology and brother of novelist Henry James wrote in his 1890 The Principles of Psychology, “Habit is thus the enormous flywheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.”

Though James seemed to look favorably upon the conservative element of habit, the drawbacks of thoughtless habitual actions are clear when people consume more calories than required to complete daily activities, purchase unneeded items, react with predictable emotions in contentious situations, and keep disadvantaged groups without advantages enjoyed by powerful groups.

Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg’s bestseller, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, argues that habits are a significant part of most people’s daily activities – about 40% – and that even brain injured people can form habits.

The Power of HabitHe outlines the A(ntecedant) – B(ehavior) – C(onsequence) model, initiated by a cue or a trigger that signals automatic or habitual behavior.
In a novel situation, the person shifts to a problem-solving mode to develop an appropriate response — which may require creative thinking .

However, in a more typical situation, the person executes the habitual physical, mental, or emotional behavior or “routine,” which is then rewarded — often with a reduction in anxiety or discomfort.

Duhigg shows how dysfunctional habits can be analyzed for the cue, routine, and reward, then changed by modifying the antecedent, behavior or reward.

Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis

The A-B-C approach was popularized by Albert Ellis in his Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (RET), and outlined in his more than 50 books including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy  Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Duhigg provides examples from marketing campaigns for well-known consumer products in the U.S., including Pepsodent toothpaste and Febreze air freshener.

Timothy Wilson

Timothy Wilson

Like Duhigg’s model’s reference to earlier behavior modification approaches, Timothy Wilson of University of Virginia’s Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, adapts principles of Aaron T. Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to change habitual interpretations, attributions, narratives and personal stories that lead to social problems including alcohol and drug abuse, teen violence and pregnancies, and social prejudice.

Aaron Beck

Aaron Beck

Wilson extracts and renames three empirically-validated behavioral techniques:

  • Story editing, to craft a more optimistic, hopeful story or interpretation about a situation, often using writing exercises
  • Story prompting, in which another person provides alternate, more optimistic interpretations based on data or “social proof” from  experiences in a similar situation
  • Cognitive Behavior TherapyDo good, be good, by “acting as if” the new behavior is a well-established habit, often through serving others in volunteer work.

RedirectRSA talk

Another look at habitual, even unconscious thinking in daily life is featured in a related post, Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship.

Douglas Van Praet

Douglas Van Praet

This discussion shares Douglas Van Praet’s guidelines to capitalize on unconscious cognitive processing and automatic buying behavior in Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing 

BJ Fogg

BJ Fogg

An earlier post, Hacking Human Behavior: “Tiny Habits” Start, Maintain Changes showcased BJ Fogg’s work on “tiny habits” as hooks to behavior change.
His approach draws on many of the same behavior modification principles featured in Duhigg’s and Wilson’s recommendations to analyze habitual cues, routines, and rewards.

-*How do you analyze and modify habits?

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Memorable Business Stories: Ideas and Numbers

Chip Heath-Dan Heath

Chip Heath-Dan Heath

Chip Heath of Stanford and Dan Heath, Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, distill principles that make messages memorable in  Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Citing urban legends and advertisements as examples of tenaciously “sticky” messages, they argue that unforgettable ideas can be recalled with an acronym that means “success” in French:   Made to Stick

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness
  • Concreteness, with many details to act as “hooks” to “stick” to  memory’s many “loops” (Velcro theory of memory)
  • Credibility
  • Emotion-laden stories.
Robert Cialdini

Robert Cialdini

The Heaths’ principle of credibility draws on the three elements of persuasive messages outlined by Robert Cialdini in his best-selling Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionInfluence

Credibility is enhanced by liking, authority, and social proof in Cialdini’s model:

  • Liking – Appealing public figures or personal friends endorses
  • Authority – Well-respected role model or respected authority provides testimonial
  • Social proof – Others like me endorse it, and others provide justification: “because…”, though the actual reason is immaterial
  • Reciprocity – “I know you’d do the same for me,” recommended by Guy Kawasaki to convey that “You owe me…”
  • Scarcity – “While supplies last…”, “Limited time offer!”, “Act now, don’t wait!”
  • Commitment, consistency – Draws on people’s desire to appear consistent, and even trustworthy by following through on commitments: “I do what I say I will do…”
  • Contrast principle – Sales people sell the most expensive item first so related items seem inexpensive by comparison: Real estate transaction fees may appear minimal in contrast to a large investment in a house.

Both memorable messages and persuasive messages take advantage of habitual reactions to typical situations.

These automated and sometimes unconscious processes are a heuristic to help people to deal rapidly and efficiently with routine activities and tasks.
However, “auto-pilot” reactions  may lead to being persuaded to act in ways that might not be helpful, such as excessive eating, drinking, spending, or engaging in risky activities.

Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

ContagiousWharton’s Jonah Berger formulated an acronyn, STEPPS, to describe narrative elements that increase the likelihood that a story, idea, or product will spread like a contagious virus: 

  • Social Currency – Passing along the information makes the sender appear “good” – knowledgeable, helpful or other   
  • Triggers – The message evokes a familiar, frequent situation
  • Emotion – The story evokes emotion, so will strengthen the emotional between the sender and receiver   
  • Public – Similar to Social Currency, passing the message reflects favorably on the sender
  • Practical Value – The sender provides actionable value in sharing the message
  • Stories –  Memorable, surprising elements increase the likelihood that others will convey the message
Randall Bolten

Randall Bolten

Finance executive Randall Bolten draws on similar observations about human cognitive and perceptual processing to recommend ways to tell a memorable and motivating quantitative story.

His Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You, discusses “quantation” as another type of business storytelling that affects  “personal brand image.”Painting with Numbers

Edward Tufte

Edward Tufte

Even more practical than Edward Tufte’s breathtaking examples of effective “information architecture” in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Envisioning Information, Bolten provides coaching on designing memorable, persuasive presentations and “pitches” featuring quantitative information as “proof points.”

His book demonstrates the Heaths’ principles of simplicity, concreteness, and credibility while drawing on Cialdini’s proven approaches of authority, commitment, consistency, and contrast. The Visual Display of Quantitative InformationEnvisioning Information

-*What principles do you use to tell stories that motivate others to act as you hope?

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Guy Kawasaki Disrupts Again: Innovative “Artisinal Publishing,” Entrepreneurship to build Brand, Visibility

APEGuy Kawasaki’s new book and most recent book have departed from his focus on business strategy, marketing, and storytelling to focus on tactical “how-to” guides.
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book echoes his earlier imperatives to “add value, make meaning”, whether writing or developing an entrepreneurial idea.

This reference manual enumerates the benefits of self-publishing (aka “artisinal publishing”) compared with traditional publishing models:

  • Content and design control
  • Longevity
  • Revisions   
  • Money
  • Direct connection
  • Price control
  • Time to market
  • Global distribution
  • Control of foreign rights
  • Analytics
  • Deal flexibility.
Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

He acknowledges drawbacks, but argues that “artisinal publishing” trumps traditional publishing models despite:

  • No advance
  • No editing team
  • No corporate marketing team
  • Possibly lower prestige
  • Self-service distribution
  • Self-service foreign rights and translations
Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

Kawasaki crowd-sourced the origami butterfly concept for his last book cover, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, and applied the same social approach to “beta-testing,” proof reading, critiquing, and editing this volume.

He candidly acknowledged the value of a professional copy editor to ensure that “artisinally-published” books look professional: even with massive iterations of crowd-sourced review, the copy editor found 1500 issues for correction.Enchantment

He provides clear cost delineations in 2012 US dollars and suggestions to fund the development process, such as engaging in affiliate fee arrangements for products and services mentioned in a book and taking advantage of discounts through the Independent Booksellers Association.

Kawasaki candidly reveals that publishing a book may not be a revenue generator, citing his experience of making more from speaking engagements than royalties on his more than a dozen traditionally-published books

Despite his track record of evangelizing Apple products, he advocated using Microsoft Word for manuscript layout because many who collaborate on an “artisinally-published” book may require this format.

A seasoned marketer, he demystified distribution channels and suggested:

  • Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing),
  • Apple (iBookstore),
  • Barnes & Noble (Nook),
  • Google (Google Play),
  • Kobo

He clarified the implications of producing digital media in contrast to physical media in discussing distribution through Gumroad for direct sales or printed books.
The latter requires the self-published author to collect, record, and report sales tax for sales within the same state or locale.

As a founder of Alltop and a Twitter evangelist, Kawasaki provided recommendations for promoting awareness of “artisinally-published” books via social media, Net Galley reviewers and bloggers, as well as virtual book tours.

He offers recommendations for independent author and publisher resources including:The Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (14th Edition)

If You Want to WriteIf You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, which he said “changed my life by empowering me to write even though I didn’t consider myself a writer.”

Kawasaki provided an unexpected “pearl of wisdom,” applicable to many life situations beyond building personal brand reach through “artisinal publishing,” from book enthusiast Marilyn Monroe who said,

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

-*What has been your experience in traditional or “artisinal” publishing?

Related post:
Business Influence as “Enchantment”

Design Thinking to Address Social and Business Problems

Design Thinking integrates structured creative problem-solving and “systems thinking” methods in design, engineering, business, educational, and non-profit settings by drawing on:

  • Empathy” for the problem context, often using ethnographic field research
  • Creativity in developing solutions
  • Rationality in aligning solutions with the context

David M. Kelley

David M. Kelley, IDEO founder, applied “design thinking” to business, based on Rolf Faste’s discussions Stanford of Robert McKim’s foundational book, Experiences in Visual Thinking

Design Thinking has been categorized in seven stages:  

  •     Define the problem, audience, criteria for “success,” priority
  •     Research the issue’s history, obstacles, previous efforts, stakeholders, end-users, thought leaders
  •     Ideate via brainstorming to identify end-users’ needs, wants
  •     Prototype with combined, expanded refined ideas, solicit feedback from end users, others
  •     Choose solutions after reviewing the objective
  •     Implement after determining, planning tasks, resources, assignments, execution timeline
  •     Learn by gathering end-user feedback, evaluating whether the solution met its goals, document successes and areas for improvement
    Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, discussed the cycle of Inspiration-Ideation–Implementation by applying such complementary processes as analysis and synthesis, and convergent and divergent thinking in Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.His TED Talk characterizes Design Thinking as a collaborative, participatory, human-centered process to solve problems innovatively by integrating opposing ideas and constraints and balancing among:
  • user desirability
  • technical feasibility
  • economic viabilityThomas Lockwood’s Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value, echoed Design Thinking’s use of careful observation, field research, graphic representation of solutions, and prototyping.He augmented the familiar framework by contributing an additional recommendation:  Concurrent business analysis, to accelerate innovative business strategy development and implementation.

    University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor Jeanne Liedtka added to Design Thinking process structures with her four-phase, 10-step framework in Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers, organized around key questions:

  • What Is?
  • What If?
  • What Wows?
  • What Works?
    Frog Design’s David Sherwin and Robert Fabricant developed Collective Action Toolkit, well-suited for young people in developing countries to become involved in developing solutions to pressing community problems.The process helps them develop important life skills:
  • Critical thinking
  • Listening to others
  • Asking effective questions
  • Generating innovative ideas
  • Active collaboration
  • Creating high-impact, motivating stories
  • Sustaining collective action
    CAT activities draw on design Thinking Principles in six areas:
  • Imagine New Ideas
  • Make Something Real
  • Plan for Action
  • Build Your Team
  • Seek New Understanding
  • Clarify Your GoalOutputs are documented according to:
  • What We Did
  • What We Learned
  • What We’ll DoNext
    Frog’s Collective Action Toolkit was field-tested with girls Bangladesh and Kenya, who reported increased self-confidence to engage in community development activities, and increased involvement and leadership in community building initiatives.-*What are some ways that Design Thinking can solve problems you see in work and life?

Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact

Annette Simmons

Annette Simmons

Annette Simmons asserts that the power of stories derives from stimulating feelings and focusing these sentiments on a goal or action in her book, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte, who designed Al Gore’s original Inconvenient Truth slides, concurs in her most recent book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences 

George Lakoff

George Lakoff

UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff, in his classic, Metaphors We Live By, contends that stories create a framework that directs and filters attention, and enables the speaker to “control the conclusions.”

Simmons suggests the following sources of stories:

1.Personal stories of your successes
2.Personal stories of failures, to demonstrate learning, and to build trust and credibility
3.Stories of mentors and other people who influenced you
4.Memorable stories from books, movies, and current events that influenced you.



She referred to Aristotle‘s premise that the best stories contain knowledge (logos), feeling (pathos), and credibility (ethos) when she offered guidelines for effective story-telling:

1. Describe events in a way that evokes a concrete, sensory experience, as it is the way to stimulating emotion
2. Be brief
3. Offer measurable outcomes
4. Enable the listener to similar situations, organizations
5.Solidarity, or enabling the listener to experience another person’s point-of-view

-*What practices enable you to craft influential, memorable “stories”?

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Why and How of Business Storytelling

Jonathan Gottschall

Jonathan Gottschall

Jonathan Gottschall’s book, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, adds to the burgeoning number of volumes that analyze the meaning, mechanisms, and impact of storytelling in business settings.

He argues that stories help people navigate life’s complex social problems at work and home, by helping develop empathic understanding and “trying on” solutions through observational learning in a virtual “experience simulator.”

The Storytelling AnimalGottschall discusses dreams as “night stories,” focused on a protagonist’s quest to achieve goals, and he acknowledges dream researchers’ definition of dreams: “intense sensorimotor hallucinations with a narrative structure,” including literary elements like plot, theme, character, scene, setting, point of view, perspective.

He considers psychotherapists as “script doctors,” who help individuals revise personal narratives to restore efficacy as protagonists in one’s life story.

HBR Guide to Persuasive PresentationsNancy Duarte provides guidance on best practices to tell compelling business stories using literary and graphic elements in her latest book, HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, published by Harvard Business School Press.

She is well-known for producing Al Gore’s original slides that formed the foundation of his Academy Award-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte

Duarte gained wide-spread recognition for her first book, a business best-seller, slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations 

Her second book was well-received and built on the principles she articulated in her original book. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences 

-*When have you been able to “try on solutions” to life’s challenges by telling or hearing relevant stories?

-*When have you served as an informal “script doctor” to help someone modify a problematic personal narrative?

Related posts:

Lessons from Business Storytelling in Constructive Personal Narrative

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins Five Elements to Construct a Good Story

 Business Stories as Narratives 

Business Storytelling = Trance Induction?

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Oxytocin Increases Empathic Work Relationships, Workplace Trust, Generosity

Paul Zak

Paul Zak

Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate Center, and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, suggests that the hormone oxytocin empathic understanding, generosity (donating to charities, giving money to others in experimental situations), happiness, and trust/trustworthiness.The Moral Molecule

He verified these laboratory-based findings in real-world situations, like a wedding he attended in southern England, prior to which he drew blood samples from the wedding party.

Zak says that oxytocin can be increased by massage, dance, story-telling, prayer, engaging in social media with a loved one, and hugs.
As a result, he “prescribes 8 hugs a day” for better mood and improved “relationships of all types.”

He says that oxytocin can be inhibited by improper nurturing in childhood, stress, abuse, and by oxytocin’s antagonist, testosterone.
Known as the “selfish hormone,” testosterone is also correlated with expressions of power and leadership in the workplace.

One reason women may have challenges expressing these traits in work situations is that their average testosterone levels are ten times lower than men’s.
Zak’s TED Talk

Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy

Related Post:

Thoughts change bodies, bodies change minds, roles shapes hormones: Amy Cuddy on “Faking Until It’s Real”

-*To what extent have you seen “eight hugs a day improve mood and relationships”?

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Lessons from Business Storytelling in Constructive Personal Narrative

Business Storytelling books and resources have proliferated, drawing many lessons from Hollywood’s storytelling business and from advertising, public relations, and marketing.

David Epston

David Epston

Michael White

Michael White

Yet business readers may be less aware that more than two decades ago, Australia-based family therapists Michael White and David Epston asserted that people experience personal problems when the stories they tell about their lives do not represent their actual experiences.

They offered ways for people to “re-story” of “re-author” their personal narratives in their now-classic Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends

Michel Foucault

Years after White and Epston built on French philosopher, Michel Foucault’s Post-Structuralist/Modernist analysis of narrative, Paul John Eakin integrated literature, cognitive science, ethics and social criticism in his intriguingly-titled books, Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative and How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves 

Eakin echoes Foucault’s view that cultural and social “discourses” influence the narratives people develop about themselves and others, and he, like White and Epston, suggests that personal narratives can be modified to reduce subjective discomfort. How Our Lives Become Stories

Though White and Epston led their clients’ introspective analysis of personal narrative, philosophers like Foucault, and perhaps even Eakin, would argue for the viability of self-guided introspection.

-*When have you used stories to help others solve problems?
-*When have you heard stories that helped you resolve issues?

Related Resources:
Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire

Whoever Tells the Best Story WinsWhoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact

The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster & Win More Business 
Tell to Win

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story

The Leader's Guide to StorytellingThe Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative

Winning the Story WarsWinning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future

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Business Stories as Narratives

Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Paul Smith’s book, Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire, builds on thought leadership (references below), with tools to develop effective business narratives in response to 21 business challenges and “five 5 E” leadership scenarios:

Envision Success
Environment for Winning
Energize the Team
Educate People
Empower Others

Smith explains that business effective stories are:Lead With a Story
• Simple
• Timeless
• Inspiring
• Respectful
• Easy to understand
• Segue easily into appropriate learning modes for various ways of taking in information
• Compatible with business discourse

Peter Guber

• “contagious” (amenable to retelling and viral broadcast such as the “purposeful narrative” discussed by Peter Guber – see previous posting below)

• proof-points

He explains “four levels of discourse” to understand story as a rhetorical device, and suggests using more than one of these in memorable business stories:

Exposition explains with information
Description makes vivid with compelling details
Narration tells a story or explains a sequence
Argumentation convinces with logic or evidence.

In addition to these elements, Smith recommends weaving in:
• Metaphors
• Emotion
• Realism

Surprise “to sear the entire story in your audience’s long-term memory” because memories consolidate shortly after an event (or its story) happens

Specific, familiar examples of outcomes that have occurred to individuals like themselves, and vivid individual characterizations

Style: Use the CAR mnemonic to “drive” a story:

o Context: Sufficiently-detailed time and location of the story to “set the stage” for dramatic action and “lesson”
o Action: Catalyst, turning point, climax and final action towards resolution
o Result: The outcome, and its importance or “lesson learned.

Smith’s book joins an expanding list of valuable references to increase business narrative impact:

Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins
The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster & Win More Business

The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story

Related Posts:

-*What elements do you consider when crafting a business story for greatest impact?

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