Storytelling that Moves People

In a terrific decade-old Harvard Business Review article, screenwriting coach Robert McKee made some wonderful observations about storytelling and its importance in business. He could also have included its value to reporting, where storytelling has been retitled “narrative journalism” as practiced by This American Life, Snap Judgment, The Moth and others. McKee says that stories “fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living – not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.”

He tells CEO’s that story-telling is much more persuasive than Powerpoints and standard rhetoric. He describes storytelling as “ultimately a much more powerful way … (because it engages in) uniting an idea with an emotion.”

Other points:

• “Essentially, a story expresses how and why life changes.”

• Negative aspects of a story are also valuable. “The great irony of existence is that what makes life worth living does not come from the rosy side. We would all rather be lotus-eaters, but life will not allow it. The energy to live comes from the dark site. It comes from everything that makes us suffer. As we struggle against those negatyive powers, we’re forced to live more deeply, more fully.”

There’s so much more in this article, including precise instructions for storytellers to unearth and tell the stories they want to tell. Check it out at Storytelling that Moves People on the Harvard Business Review site. You will have to join (trial or one-story memberships are available. And in the case of this outstanding article, well worth it!


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