head2Sonja and are sitting at the Sandton Southern Sun listening to Justin Cohenpresent his preso on storytelling: What’s Your Story? I met Justin in myTomorrowToday days and admired his blatant confidence in front of an audience. He is now turning his speaking prowess to punting the power of stories in the public sphere. We’re sitting here ‘cos we’re fascinated by the range of applications of story. From traditional storytelling to business narrative, we see a spectrum of applications and uses of story in organisations. I suspect Justin will position himself on the traditional side of the spectrum?

Justin has started and  takes us back to the beginning of time – from the start of creation, to stardust, to human beings to cave paintings … to being hard coded to tell stories. (He has the best powerpoint style of anyone in SA that I’ve seen recently).

We don’t just watch or listen to stories … we live stories.

As we grow up we develop the ability to imitate.We are also born with bias – our mindset decides our ability. We need to draw on our ability to imitate adaptively. Imitation gets a bad wrap … you don’t see it on a list of corporate values. It does however have a corporate name: innovation.

Fundamental difference between us and animals: we tell stories, and we learned to do this about 40,000 years ago.

Want to find out how successful people got there? Get their biographies.

A single story has more of an impact than the blood and sweat of a million people.

Obama was charged by Clinton that he could just tell a good story. Obama responded by saying, “Tell me words don’t matter”

Two types of stories:

1. Dead stories: Justin speaks of Medical Aid and the story associated with why we need Medical Aid.

2. Living stories: Justin tells of a friend, Howard, diagnosed with cancer at 22. Doctors suggested a private hospital. He had no medical aid.

Which of these stories motivates you to buy medical aid?

Living stories don’t tell us what to think or do. Stories help us walk in the shoes of others and help us to make the decision ourselves. The next time you have to sell or teach – back it up with an authentic lived experience.

But we also need to listen to stories. He who listens most wins. The greatest value of a story is the lesson of a life we did not have to live. Stories are life simulators.

Justin was at a Nedbank service conference. Everyone had to to share a success story of service. People’s emotions are peaked with this.

I’m pretty chuffed with the approach Justin has taken on this. Some folk would lament at the “superficial and fluffy bunny” approach to stories, but its a message that needs to be heard. Stories are powerful. 

Justin asks about the possibility of capturing people’s stories in our organisations and using them to support values and objectives, extracting them to share lessons.

In the middle of a sentence, a video of a train comes up. Jusitn speaks over the noise to prove the point of “habituation” … how we can filter out the un-important stuff in our sphere of attention.

He shares an experience with his laptop and why he doesn’t chooses LG laptops.

In the consumer space, negative experience stories are shared more than positive stories, and they will tell a negative story first. If organisations wake up, consumers could become storytelling marketers. So, companies need to:

1 – be great

2 – get the stories

3 – tell the stories

Most important is number 1 – customers will tell these stories!

Stories are not just perception, they are reality.

Changing your story changing your neuro-chemistry. You change your story, you change oyur life.

Justin just menioned that we call our species homospaiens. He then proposed that we relable ourselves as homo-story-iens. He’s missed a body of research her where the temrinilogies is actually being used:homo-narrens. We are thus the story telling apes 🙂

Actions you can take from this presentation:

1. Imitate

2. Tell living stories

3. Start story-time

4. Give memorable stories

5. Tell better self-stories