Stories That Motivate

Forget about PowerPoint and statistics. To involve people at the deepest level, you need stories.”

Screenwriter Robert McKee in Harvard Business Review, June 2003

On page 1 of The Wall Street Journal weekend edition (7/11/09), there was a heartwarming story about a 36 year old Iraq Vet and his golden retriever, who is trained to help people whose suffering is emotional, not physical. Kind of like a Seeing Eye Dog for the mind.

The story begins with Tuesday, a golden retriever who is following around his owner Luis Carlos Montalvan to make sure that Luis takes his half-dozen pills for the day. We learn that Tuesday is also able to recognize imminent panic attacks and wake Luis from terrifying nightmares with a calming lick or nuzzle.

It’s not until we’re well into the story (the next page) that we discover the organization behind these animals – Puppies Behind Bars Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that uses prisoners to train psychiatric-service dogs.

Using a story to introduce your business helps to personalize your company, making it easier for people to relate to what you’re saying.  An effective business story touches on our emotions and helps put a “face” to an impersonal corporate entity.  Good stories are memorable and motivate us to get involved or contribute (buy).

Which do you think is more powerful: A story about Tuesday and his master, or the descriptive paragraph about Puppies Behind Bars that appears on its website?

Think about the business stories you can tell:

  • How your product or service has impacted the lives of others (success story)
  • The quirky personality of your chief geek, who’s developed a new technology
  • The inspiring team dynamics behind a recent product launch

Please share with us the stories you’ve heard, or are telling.

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