Sunday, May 3, 2020

Stories at work by Indranil Chakraborty

I picked this autographed book in November 2018. Back then, being in management and corporate, I thought this would be helpful. Besides, looking at a helpful book, I enjoy stories. Now, I am in the development sector working as a fellow. This moment, I find this book more helpful than ever. 

'Tell me a fact and I'll learn. Tell me a truth and I will believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.'  The book begins with this ancient North American Indian proverb.  Storytelling is powerful. I state this without knowledge of storytelling but, with the experience of storytelling. I connect to various people through storytelling.

The author of the book, Indranil owns the firm 'Story Works' and credits
Shawn Callahan and Mark Schenk, the one who introduced the concept of business storytelling to the author. 
‘Story is a fact. What we will do is wrap it in context and delivery it with emotion,’ says the author.  Seemed simple right?  This does not look as easy as it sounds.

Indranil shared various studies on how stories are powerful. Humans are hard-wired for the stories.  Evolutionarily, we came quite far sharings stories among us. There are several reasons to validate how stories are powerful.

I was surprised to read about, ‘Neural Coupling.’ Data Brain, Story Brain. The neuroscience and the science of the stories are fascinating.

Neural coupling is about how brain patterns of tellers and listeners sync in. And, in a few studies, it was discovered that listeners' brain patterns go ahead of the tellers. 

Why Stories?

1.       Stories help explain critical, complex messages.
2.       Stories are credible.
3.       Stories induce ‘lean-in’ behavior.
4.       Stories inspire action.
5.       Stories spread.

With a lot of anecdotes and examples, the author shared how story format is the best way of all.

Along with the stories, author also suggested a wonderful tip to extend our story bank. The process of creating a story bank. Jot down keywords and update in any note pad app. I use Google Keep to noting down. To tell stories, one needs to be able to compile stories.  

What makes anything a story?
1)Time marker or Place marker: Stories starting with a time marker, ‘In 1947….’ Or Place marker, ‘At White house…….”

2)Sequence of events: In Oral storytelling, there is a sequence in events. The sequence helps us to bring clarity to the event.

3)Dialogue: If we are hearing the dialogue, then we can call it a story.

4)Listeners can conclude the story in their interpretations. The worst way to end the story is to give out the message that you want the audience to guess.

5)How do we let the audience get the message without telling the message in clear? Simple. Speak relevance statements. Statements relevant to the message and hinting them to interpret in one way.

Business Storytelling does not only talk about telling but, also listening. Story triggering is about actions. Actions trigger stories and as it was told in prior, that stories spread, the stories can be triggered through our actions and it will be spread. With personal anecdotes and Shiv Shiv Kumar’s acts, the ideas of triggering stories are explained. 

When do we use Business Storytelling?
1.       When we are building a rapport with people we hope to work with- clients, team members and stakeholders.
2.    When we are explaining change
3.       When we are trying to get people to change their minds
4.       When we are looking at sharing best practices, knowledge, or success.

Different Story Patterns

To Build Rapport and Credibility:
Recognizing the character traits, bringing a connection to the experiences, and presenting the story helps us to present ourselves and drive the point.

While creating the connection stories, one needs to guard against, ‘invented memory’
As Jonathan Gottschall mentions in The Storytelling Animal:

“A life story is not, however, an objective account. A life story is a a carefully shaped narrative that is replete with strategic forgetting and skillfully spun meanings.”

The Anti Stories: Every time, management comes up with new initiatives, there is always criticism and disinclination to work towards for it. These can be termed as anti-stories. Acknowledging the anti-stories and addressing them with alternative stories can make the messages stick. Nicely explained in the book.

Story Listening:
To tell the people stories, it would be great to listen to their stories at first. Listening to their stories and finding a pattern can solve many problems. The art of story listening is done through triggering stories. Whenever we start our questions with ‘why’ ‘what,’ anticipating stories, we get opinions in return. ‘When’ and ‘where’ is how stories can be triggered. As the stories are always started with a time marker or place marker.
Through ‘anecdote circle’ and various methods the author described how Story listening can be helpful in solving various situations.  

Of all, I loved these pointers are worth quoting.

Three Worst Ways to Start a Speech.

The third worst way to start a speech is by thanking the people who invited you and expressing gratitude. The author is not against expressing gratitude but, starting the speech with it.

The second worst way is to clear your throat.

The first worst way to start a speech is by introducing yourself and topic you will speak on.

Research has shown that we form opinions about a person in the first seven seconds of his appearance based on what we see and the non-verbal cues we get. We make up our minds in the first twenty-one seconds of the person speaking whether we would like to listen to them or not.

 Three Best Ways to Start a Speech.

The third best way to start a speech is by using an ‘imagine’ scenario.
The Second is to start with a statistic or fact that shocks.
The first is to start with a story. Linking the topic, you are speaking on.

Three Best Ways to finish a Speech.
The third best way to finish is with a call to action.
The second is with a rhetorical question.
The best way is again, to end with a story.

There is a chapter dedicated to discussing the power of stories along with the data. Interesting stories. There are various anecdotes, quotes that flash as I pick up the book again.  I enjoyed this book, underlining a lot of quotes and understanding how effective communication makes things simple. To all the story enthusiasts, go for it, you will enjoy it.

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