Stories are powerful. Many of us have a favorite story; one that engages our emotions and intellect through expert timing and language, and leaves us simultaneously fulfilled and wanting more.
Neuroscience tells us that people respond to a narrative more than other communication types. Paul Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and professor of psychology, economics and management at Claremont Graduate University, summarizes that the chemical connection between our brains and stories is powerful enough to influence our emotions, change our behaviors and spur us to action[i].
Falling Victim to the Meme
Organizations are attempting to tap into the power that storytelling has to bring their brands to life. Often times; however, it is without demonstrable benefits. Many corporate narratives fall flat and unfortunately become victims of the “cool story” meme because they are simply key messages that fail to grip the hearts and minds of employees. How does a company create or resurrect a story that inspires and shapes beliefs, which lead to changed behaviors?
Connect to Hearts and Minds
A story in and of itself is not necessarily enough to alter worldviews and change behaviors. Just like our personal favorite novel, the key to a masterful company narrative is its ability to connect to people through their hearts and minds. What makes a story compelling?
- activates a “big idea”
- appeals to emotion and reason
- taps into individual and organizational purpose
- invites people to see themselves within the narrative
Harness Intrinsic Nature for Storytelling
When built well and buttressed by committed leaders and an intentional roadmap, a compelling story can boost organizational energy and shift engagement out of meme status toward a state of trending, relevancy. In fact, a vibrant story should accomplish three things:
- align employees around a shared common purpose
- become the foundation for your destination and any other sub-narratives
- serve as a launching pad for meaningful and authentic leader conversations
People are intrinsically drawn to stories--they can be and are often moved by them. Organizations can harness this inherent characteristic as fuel and through a compelling narrative, create an environment where employees readily adapt to organizational change and willingly commit to long-term vision.
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[i] Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling, Paul Zak, Harvard Business Review, 2014