Monday, 5 November 2012

Story telling

I feel as though I've always known that a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Now I learn, from the Harvard Business Review, that this is an Aristotelian model. I shouldn't be surprised, as I'm familiar with the Aristotelian model for drama, and I guess there are a set of related concepts. (It reminds me of the qualms I felt when I was forced to agree with Donald Clark that my classical education wasn't that useful after all, and most painfully, that my extensive study of Latin was probably less useful than my minimal study of Greek.  But I digress...)

I wholeheartedly endorse the main point of the Harvard link, that effective presentations are rather like story-telling. Indeed there are broader lessons for leadership and influencing.

Whenever we try to engage with anyone, it makes sense to look for and find a shared narrative, a set of common experiences that mean we both feel "that person's just like me". From there, we can move forward to a shared solution, and agree actions that we both believe are worthwhile, and that we can commit to. This is essentially what happens when you tell a story: you agree on a beginning, you posit other scenarios, and you reach a conclusion. There's a mutual satisfaction with the arc of the story, and a shared motivation to pursue the conclusion.

The complementary formula for explaining anything, as every good presenter and trainer knows, is to tell 'em what you going to tell 'em (the beginning), tell 'em (the middle), then tell 'em what you've told 'em (the end).

If this just seems like common sense, then I submit you are already working effectively, but the reasons you are effective have been subconscious, and you can benefit from a more explicit understanding. If the idea is new, then glad to have helped.

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