For some time now, storytelling has been understood as a powerful leadership tool. When storytelling is promoted in a business setting, the main benefit attributed to it is its ability to present information to the audience in a quick and memorable manner. as a neuroscientist Paul Zak Studies have shown that stories give audiences “a better understanding of the main points the speaker wants to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later.”
However, storytelling can have a greater impact. Since COVID, we have seen a growing appetite for personal narratives and taking a human-centered approach to organizational structures. Like the popularity of Bren Brown’s leadership text Great audacity Attests to: Human connection is a vital component to personal and professional flourishing. Brown explains, “Connection is why we’re here… it’s what gives our lives purpose and meaning.”
It is the storytelling culture that can drive this kind of communication that focuses on purpose and meaning. The three books on this must-read list below are for leaders who want to understand the full potential of creating a storytelling culture. Although these books are not explicitly business storytelling books, if you read them you will walk away with a solid understanding of why storytelling is a game-changer for any organization that wants to empower its employees to communicate, speak and think creatively.
In this article, you’ll find three books that show how stories not only enable us to share information in a memorable way, but also serve to form meaningful connections. Reading together, these headings form a foundation for understanding how narratives help us see ourselves more clearly, connect with others authentically, and convey information in a meaningful and memorable way.
These books may not be available at your local bookstore, but they are all available at the flea market. If you are interested in the power of storytelling in leadership and creating a culture of storytelling in your organization, add this to your must-read list today.
Career Counseling: A Narrative Approach Written by Larry Cochran (SAGE Publishing, 1997)
Academic publication Larry Cochran Career Counseling: A Narrative Approach Opening doors to thinking about how the stories we tell about ourselves shape our career choices. This book effectively connects the power of narrative-making to the business world. Understanding how stories help us see and know ourselves will enable you to tell stories that create connection and cohesion in the workplace.
Cochrane’s theory moved the field of career counseling beyond assessments and personality tests, by having people delve deeper into understanding themselves through storytelling. By using narrative-building tools, Cochran says, people are able to investigate and understand the hidden web of influences that shape them into the people they become. Without these narratives, we often rely on clichés or what we have been heard by others to make sense of our paths. Narratives can help us reflect on and understand our personal choices. Although written to an audience of career advisors, the frameworks are applicable to other areas of business leadership and personal awareness.
Why did I choose this path when I spent years studying something else? As their new manager, how should my team be prepared to work with me? What is one thing I want everyone to know about me personally and professionally? These kinds of questions are the ones that everyone around us wants to know, but no one is asking. The ability to craft a story about your career journey—and help others on your team do so, too—will help begin the process of connecting with each other and creating cohesion within any team.
try this: Use the tax authority Storytelling tool to create a story to answer the question: What experience have you had – not necessarily related to your career – that has influenced the way you think about your job?
Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Wit by Roger Shank (Northwestern University Press, 1995)
With OpenAI releasing a new chatbot that can answer almost any question, AI technology is in the headlines again. This pioneering tool is likely indebted to one of the pioneers in artificial intelligence research, Roger Shank. While it may seem like an unlikely resource to turn to for learning about storytelling, in 1995 he wrote a groundbreaking text called Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence. In this book, Dr. Shank explores how narratives reflect our collective intelligence and how they influence how we interact with others.
While arguing that artificial intelligence must be based on real human intelligence, Schank reveals how humans are strongly connected to communication through information and its storage in stories. For example, humans “index” stories to create relationships. When you hear a story about someone who made an embarrassing mistake during their first day at a new job, you create links to your similarly indexed stories, which contain similar items even if they’re not exactly the same material. The main thoughts of bluster, first day at work, and the desire to make a positive impression may make you remember your first day in high school or the time you witnessed a coworker’s mistakes during orientation. These indexed connections create Empathy and strengthening relationships.
Dr. Shank’s insights into human relationships, interaction, and collective intelligence are fascinating and help business leaders understand why it is so important to be able to tell effective stories to create cohesive organizations and connections between colleagues. Adding to Cochran’s research, Schank demonstrates not only how stories help us to understand ourselves, but to relate to others, helping us to understand each other, persuade, and make decisions together.
try this: As a team building exercise, play Story Bingo. Create bingo cards with numbered squares – one square for each team member. Each person will be assigned a number. In random order, each person will share a file A personal story they prepared in advance. If the story makes you remember your similar experience, you can cover the number square that this team member belongs to. This is a great exercise for practicing aggressive listening, too. The first person to cover all squares is the winner.
How to Be Pleasant: In 10 Simple Steps by Jessica Hagee (Workman Publishing, 2013)
in this book How interestingAward-winning artist and writer Jessica Hagee reveals the power of simple lines, circles, and captions to convey an abundance of meaning. This book forces the reader to have fun, be creative, and express their ideas visually. Although adding a graphic to your conversation is a deceptively simple communication strategy, the effect can be enormous. A simple, hand-drawn Venn diagram becomes an invitation to engage in conversation – stimulating new ideas and questions.
With a concrete articulation of your idea, you can invite listeners to use more of their brains. Not only do they take in your words and tone of voice, they now use the part of your brain that processes visual information. Just like our brains tell stories, neuroscientists have found that humans can process entire images and their meanings in as little as 13 milliseconds.
Minor stories and visuals are “fixed”. We remember them. With the right story and the right visuals, business leaders can convey memorable information and meaning to their audience in a matter of moments.
try this: Draw a visual representation of your company culture. Here are some examples to get your juices flowing.
With the ideas in these three texts, you’ll learn why storytelling is a great tool for empowering your team to communicate, speak, and think creatively. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Dive into storytelling through leadership Exercise And read other storytelling books, like the one on this topic A reading list for innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders.