“In his three-year expedition, Captain Scott, with all the courage and his team members showed, with all the daily sacrifices, failed to reach the South Pole. The Arctic was stronger than him and his men. The persistent question of those who stayed at home was ‘Why?’. The answer is complex but leads in a clear direction – the analysis of the risks and conditions of the expedition was not complete and correct. So, the result was tragic… “
A brief recollection of Scott’s expedition to Antarctica only drew the attention of those present to the news that was to follow and guided their thoughts as to why the project was completed prematurely. The responsibility was taken over by the project management who did not analyze the risks and conditions, those who were to be resigned were collateral victims, innocent people who happened to be present in the project. Anyone venturing into Antarctica can face death. “Life is hard (sic!)”
That moment was a lesson about storytelling, how you can use a story to introduce a difficult topic, with great emotional impact without creating an immediate rejection reaction. Later, we saw that it is an art that can be learned and perfected and used in various situations such as training, coaching, leadership, communication, problem solving. Virtually, anything…
I will further present some methods used in storytelling.
The ‘monomyth’, also called the ‘hero’s journey’, describes a difficult journey through unknown and dangerous places. After overcoming them all, the hero returns home with a superior quality of understanding of the world, a wisdom gained through experience from the difficult events they survived. This structure of the story can be found quite often in movies. I recommend a book in this regard – The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (Ed.Herald)
Concentic circles technique
‘Concentric circles’ is a storytelling technique where you place three or more subjects, each subject in another. Place the most important story in the center and use the other stories to explain the central principle. It’s like a friend tells you about a wise person in his life who taught him something important. The first circle is the story about your friend as a person, the second circle is the story told by the friend and in the center is the important lesson that deserves to be remembered. There seem to be many words but our mind wants logic, structure and this will make it work and find the desired meaning.
‘Sparkling’ is a technique in which you draw attention to the problems that exist in society, in our lives, in business. That in a glass of champagne, the bubbles of carbon dioxide come off and come to the surface, that the ideas presented and that fuel the desire for change in the audience. It is a technique that motivates the team to find ideas for change, the desire to solve problems, increasing creativity.
Storytelling techniques used in biblical parables
A final example I give you here is that of biblical parables, where a hostile audience received answers to difficult, aggressive questions in the form of life events and asked those present to answer questions. In fact, examples abound around us! Just reach out and pick them up, enriching our message and increasing the impact on those around us.
To find solutions in a team, use storytelling techniques, to awaken in the subconscious the resources that have not yet been realized and used. We might be tempted to say that in technical areas we cannot use storytelling. Try, aware that the horizon is ahead, open, full of undiscovered possibilities, regardless of the field.
Math storytelling techniques
Any field can be illustrated with a story and storytelling techniques. I had a high school math teacher to whom I have an eternal respect for. I don’t remember what I learned in math, but I remember two stories that show how a theorem was used to solve a practical situation. I’ll tell you one of them. Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth using a stick and the shadow he leaves at 12 o’clock at the summer solstice. That’s all he had on hand, this was his laptop and high-tech instruments, although he was the director of the Library of Alexandria.
Thus, in order to calculate the circumference of the earth, Eratosthenes started from the information that during the summer solstice (June 21) the sun’s rays fell perpendicular to the earth’s surface in the city of Syene. The sun corresponds to an angle of 7 degrees and 12 minutes. Starting from the difference in the angles that the shadows leave and from the distance between the two cities of 800 km, Eratosthenes calculated a circumference of about 40,000 kilometers, an estimate extremely close to what modern researchers have discovered.
My attention was so drawn to this story that I still remember it.
Each of us has stories, even if we can’t tell short stories, with a core and meaning. We can all and only need to practice, to prepare for the moments when we need such a tool to emphasize with a thick, red line what message the audience should remember for the next years…
And one last secret – we all like to listen to stories from the time when we could not read and our vocabulary was enriched daily, constantly due to stories told by the family or ‘listened to’ by those around us.