The Physiological Power Of Storytelling

One of the key topics I write about is corporate culture.  It’s such an important area that the first item on my list of The 6 New Management Imperatives is: “Invest in culture as a corporate asset.” It turns out that storytelling is one of the key levers for affecting corporate culture.

There are actually some physiological reasons why storytelling is important. I just read an interesting blog post that talks about the research of Marco Iacoboni, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA. One of the key insights is that

People relate to stories because it is part of their evolutionary makeup. Stories cause our mirror neurons to fire at similar experiences, helping us remember and relate

The more that people can recognize themselves in a story, the more it will draw them into the content. So great communicators need to create narratives that relate to the people who they want to influence. The blog post goes on to explain that storytelling was a key part of President Obama’s success. As an example, take a look at this segment from one of his speeches (think about how many people can relate to these words):

There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

The bottom line: Great storytelling can help change corporate culture

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

5 thoughts on “The Physiological Power Of Storytelling”

  1. Absolutely. Stories are how we communicate. Stories are about people, and people is who you relate to. Not jargon. Not features. Not products. Not brands. People. So to explain your company’s culture, don’t talk about values or initiatives. Tell stories about your employees, stories of how their actions manifest the culture.

  2. Totally agree. Telling a story creates involvement and makes the content more believable. The audience become intrigued about what the ending to the story is. A story about people to communicate brand values, will help the audience remember the brand values much more than if they were listed in a presentation. It puts brand values into context. Stories can then be passed on and retold – as are the values or point behind the story.

  3. Great post – it is all about the story. One of our company drivers is to “serve our communities with passion and commitment,” and when this is shared in a presentation, the room quietens immediately. Then we share the stories that are results of that statement and people want to be a part of our journey as employees, customers, vendors, and stockholders – not just because we sell great products, but because our stories paint a compelling picture.

  4. I am working with a theatre in San Francisco that tells corporate stories, that is, with the corporation (or NPO) they develop the story to be told (script, cast, and produce) it. How, to whom, and where are all variables, as well as tracking and follow-up. I’d be very interested in talking to anyone who wants to do this live — as opposed to video, print, webcast, social media, etc.

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