Eight Narratives That Take ...


Conducting our storytelling workshops never gets old.

It’s energizing to help the workshop participants connect the dots to a simple premise: Given a choice between “interesting” and “dull,” human beings pick “interesting” virtually every time. I have to use the adverb “virtually” allowing for the individual who sports a “math is fun” button.

Similar to Anthony Bourdain walking the streets of Sri Lanka to find the best kottu, I’m continually on the hunt for narratives that explore the discipline of storytelling in business as leave-behinds for the workshop.

Lately, these are my go-to narratives:

  • Your Brain on Fiction (The New York Times): With a title riffing on the 1987 anti-narcotic campaign, “This Is Your Brain on Drugs,” the essay explore the neuroscience behind storytelling.
  • Block That Adjective! (The Wall Street Journal): Alexander McCall Smith, best known as the novelist behind the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series, harpoons those pesky (oops) adjectives. In the spirit of full disclosure, McCall Smith won me over six years ago when he stopped by the blog with a few words of career guidance.



  • The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn (Scientific American; link takes you to syndicated content): There’s a fair amount of science that makes a case for storytelling in business communications. This one is the best for my money; hence, I shelled out the eight bucks for the PDF reprint.
  • Five Storytelling Techniques to Give Business Communications Liftoff (Ishmael’s Corner): If this one sounds familiar, trace back your steps to the attribution. In the post, I tease out the five techniques that I consider the most useful in communicating to the outside world.
  • Storytelling That Moves People (Harvard Business Review, requires sign in): HBR treks to the home of Hollywood screenwriter and director Robert McKee to find out why executives should care about storytelling, how storytelling works and the meaning of life. He hammers home the point that motivating others isn’t just an intellectual process. It requires engaging people’s emotion. Enter storytelling stage left.
  • How to Sell a $1 Snow Globe for $59 (Fast Company): I love this article. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn bought a bunch of tchotchkes at flea markets and yard sales with the average price coming in at $1.29. They then created a story for each item, selling them on eBay for $36.12 on average. For the math challenged, that’s a 2,706 percent increase in value.
  • Revealing Your Moment of Truth (McKinsey Quarterly, requires sign in): This article always resonates with executives. If the bluest of the blue-chip management consultants have jumped on the storytelling bandwagon, they figure, “What’s the point in trudging down the corporate speak path?”
  • Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains (Lifehacker): This article drills into the cognitive science that underpins storytelling, but in language that can be absorbed by non-technical folks.

I had one workshop participant later tell me with a certain amount of glee that actually, this was hammock reading. And that’s exactly how he read the articles.

In a hammock.

With a pitch of sangria at his side.

I think he’s getting the hang of this storytelling stuff.

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