1: We have a tall task.  

Our goal is to persuade our audience to change behaviors and set out on a new course.

We begin by getting their attention. To do so, we go negative.

“Negative stories, questions, or challenges wake us up. They activate the reptilian brain, suggesting fight or flight,” writes Stephen Denning in The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative

What … continue reading

1: Define problem Analyze problem Recommend solution.

This sequence is the “normal” or “rational” way of communicating, Stephen Denning writes The Secret Language of Leadership. “It’s an appeal to reason—a model that has been the hallowed Western intellectual tradition ever since the ancient Greeks. . . And it works well enough when your aim is merely to pass on information to people who want to hear it.”

But what if … continue reading

1: “It was just the worst meeting you ever went to,” Craig Dunn recalls in Stephen Denning‘s book The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative. 

“We had insults thrown at us. There was a lot of anger and disappointment. People had lost faith in the firm,” he remembers. “And they had good reasons for feeling the way they did. We all had to face the … continue reading

1: Imagine we are standing in line at the grocery store.

“Scientists Discover 4,000-Year-Old Television Set in Egyptian Pyramid,” reads the tabloid headline on the magazine rack beside us.

We shake our heads and smile. Seriously? We question the reliability of the story. Not our belief as to when television was first invented. 

“When we think we know something to be objective truth, our immediate reaction to news indicating the … continue reading

Different goals. Different stories.

Yesterday, we looked a the power of a springboard story.

1: As leaders, we want to have many different types of stories in our leadership tool belt. We are wise to “employ a variety of narrative patterns for different aims,” Stephen Denning writes in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling. “The point is that there is no single way to tell a story. Instead, narrative … continue reading

1: “Human communication has its own set of very unusual and counterintuitive rules.” Malcolm Gladwell tells us.

Exhibit one: If we want to inspire people into action, providing detailed scenarios doesn’t work.

Why? “Even if believable when disseminated, such scenarios quickly become discredited as the future unfolds in unexpected ways,” Stephen Denning writes in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative.

Yesterday, … continue reading

1: “Organizations often seem immovable,” Stephen Denning writes in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling.  

The good news?  

“They are not,” he notes.

So, how can we possibly move the immovable?

“With the right kind of story at the right time, they are stunningly vulnerable to a new idea,” he observes.

His book provides a guide to finding and telling the right story at the right time. His premise? The … continue reading

“Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.”  -Marcus Aurelius

1: The year was 1966.  Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a contender for the middleweight boxing title.  

Then, he experienced a bewildering fall.  At the height of his career, he was “wrongly accused of a horrific crime he did not commit: triple homicide. He went on trial, and a biased, bogus verdict followed: three life … continue reading

1: The year was 1992.  Republican pollster Frank Luntz was running a focus group in Detroit to test television ads.  Frank was looking at tactics to undermine support for Ross Perot, an Independent presidential candidate.  Frank showed the first focus group a series of three ads: a biography about Ross Perot and his rise from poverty through entrepreneurship to becoming one of the world’s wealthiest people, then one of the candidate’s speeches, and finally, … continue reading