The story factor

I really like books that make me want to read more/related books to fully grasp the concept. The story factor by Annette Simmons is one such book. Besides being really entertaining and full of cleaver stories, this books gives the readers a framework to develop their own stories.

The book talks about an interesting categorization for the kind of stories you need, to be effective in the business of influencing other people. These are:

  • “Who am I” stories
  • “Why I am here” stories
  • “The vision” stories
  • “Teaching” stories
  • “Values-in-action” stories
  • “I know what you are thinking” stories

The author has a great sense of power of stories and provides a useful check list of how to tell good stories. It talks about the power of stories in terms of influencing the uncaring or apathetic.

And of course the stories!! Below is one of my favorites from the book:

Once, the people of The City invited Mulla Nasruddin to deliver a khutba. When he got on the minbar (pulpit), he found the audience was not very enthusiastic, so he asked “Do you know what I am going to say?” The audience replied “NO”, so he announced “I have no desire to speak to people who don’t even know what I will be talking about” and he left. The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day. This time when he asked the same question, the people replied “YES” So Mullah Nasruddin said, “Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won’t waste any more of your time” and he left. Now the people were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mullah to speak the following week. Once again he asked the same question – “Do you know what I am going to say?” Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered “YES” while the other half replied “NO”. So Mullah Nasruddin said “The half who know what I am going to say, tell it to the other half” and he left!

I told this story to a management consultant friend of mine about how management consultants are great at getting different groups in a company to talk to each other and he could not agree more.

Once upon a time there was a tiny village cursed by a ferocious monster who blocked the only road leading in and out of the village. Many courageous knights set out to fight the monster but no matter which weapon they chose, the monster with his magical powers would match this weapon with more than double the power.
The first knight, who brandished a club of wood, was flattened by a club twice its size. A second knight tried to burn the monster with fire and was sizzled to a crisp when the monster blew a fire twice as hot back at him. A third knight wielded a sword of steel. He was sliced in half by the monster’s magical sword twice as sharp and twice as long.
The fate of these three knights discouraged any further attempts and the people in the village learned to live with their limitations.
One day, Jack, the village fool, announced that he had a new idea to vanquish the monster. Most people laughed at Jack. Only the curious and the courageous marched out with him, helping him carry food and water to the place where the monster blocked the road.
The monster roared, stretched to his full height, and glared at Jack. The onlookers gasped when Jack grabbed an apple and walked right up to the monster. “Are you hungry?” Jack asked. The monster’s eyes narrowed to slits and he sniffed the apple. When his massive jaw opened wide; one of the ladies fainted dead away before the monster delicately took the apple from Jack’s quivering hand. The monster raised his fist high and brought it down in front of the amazed crowd. Bam! Opening his fist they saw two apples, juicier and redder than the one he had eaten.
In the same way a clay urn of water was replaced with two golden urns filled with water, sweeter and clearer than the first. The people ran to tell the others in the village of this miracle. When they returned Jack smiled and the monster smiled back with enough warmth to convince even the most cynical of the villagers that this monster was now a blessing to the village rather than a curse.

I told this story to my daughter as a way to calm her down and to stop her from complaining about her sister. By the end of the story she had forgotten about what she was complaining about 🙂 but my hope is that she learned a lesson about being nice to her sister.

Overall, if you are an engineer who is used to thinking rationally and linearly about issues, the story factor, provides you with a powerful way to think differently. Instead of logic that invokes reason in the thinking part of the brain, the story factor seeks to engage and excite in order to make the audience feel your story in the emotional part of their brains.

The three other books I bought (all are great) after reading this book:

Story on!!

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