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Storytelling is our DNA – and Jonathan Gottschall tries to unravel why humans came to be the “storytelling animal” – he traces the (evolutionary and sociocultural) roots of our fascination with storytelling. You can check out the book on Amazon.com!

Since you’re reading this blog about the power of stories, you’re probably interested in… well, the power of stories. And that’s exactly what The Storytelling Animal is all about.

Here’s a quote from the book, which I really enjoyed:

The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape.

But perhaps the most impressive finding is just how fiction shapes us: mainly for the better, not for the worse. Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds. More peculiarly, fiction’s happy endings seem to warp our sense of reality. They make us believe in a lie: that the world is more just than it actually is. But believing that lie has important effects for society — and it may even help explain why humans tell stories in the first place.

Basically it says: if you want to influence someone, change someone’s beliefs, then using stories – even fictive stories – can be more effective than using facts.


Use Storytelling to teach a foreign language

Can storytelling serve as a vehicle to teach people to learn a foreign language faster, easier and with more fun? That’s the point Jeanette Borich makes in this article.

This year I tried something different: using storytelling to help my 8th graders become more confident second-language (L2) learners. This method emphasizes the gradual acquisition of language rather than the memorization of vocabulary and rules. It’s more about “what” is said than “how” it is said.


Interactive Storytelling in Malaysia

In the New Straits Times, there is a piece on interactive storytelling:

“Interactive storytelling provides the audience with a deeper, more active, engagement and sensation. It provides an augmented experience. Whether for the purposes of interference or guidance through dialogue management, alternative plots, situation management, collaborative improvisation and spatial transformation, these new technologies and approaches add another dimension,” says Derek Woodgate, co-founder and chief creative officer of Plutopia Productions, Inc.

Woodgate is also president of The Futures Lab, Inc.
In addition to film and gaming, Woodgate is excited by interactive storytelling influence in narrative play and toys, theatre performances, video, art and media installations, augmented reality environments, dance, education and online books.

Read more: Trends: Another dimension to storytelling – Tech – New Straits Times

I’m not that a big fan of theatre performances I must admit, but if there would be more interaction and a chance to be more involved, I can imagine it to be a lot of fun.


Why we love explanations, myths & origins

Why do our brains love stories about how we – and everything else – came to be? What’s so fascinating to us about myths? If these questions are of interest to you, then this article might be worth your while. (It’s a short article).

[…] we like to know where things come from. We like stories. We like nice tales. We need our myths, our origins, our creations. […]

Explanations can even enhance our own comprehension: when we explain something to someone, we understand it better ourselves. It’s called the self-explanation effect and has been demonstrated numerous times in the real world. For instance, students who explain textbook material perform better on tests of that material than those who study it twice. Students who are trained in self-explanation perform better on math problem-solving tests—and are better able to learn new mathematical concepts. […]

That’s a very good point. Neuroscience has shown that we remember things better when we “attach” them to already existing knowledge. And what else is an explanation other than connecting new information (or new concepts, or new knowledge) with already existing information in your brain?

Explanation = connecting new information with information that already exists in your brain.

Explanation is natural, just as it is spontaneous. Children as old as eight give explanations for all matters of phenomena as a matter of course. Lombrozo calls them promiscuously teleological: explaining things by the purpose they serve instead of digging deeper for meaning (i.e., they are more likely to say that a mountain exists to be climbed and not because of some geological forces that happened to shape the earth a certain way). And we never really outgrow this childhood tendency[…]

This is an interesting observation, because there is much to it indeed. It feels almost comforting to explain things by their purpose. Think about it: Why does honey exist? Well, to be eaten of course! This could almost be a line out of Winnie The Pooh.

Our brains love simplicity. Simple explanations almost always win over complex, sophisticated ones, especially if we package a simple explanation into a story. And this is especially true if such an explanatory story can make sense out of several factors at once.

You can read the full article here: Hunters of Myths: Why Our Brains Love OriginsBy Maria Konnikova, Scientific American



Content Creation: 5 Storytelling Tips

Arnie Kuehn has posted an article titled 5 Storytelling Tips to Create Engaging Content.

He advises you to use your personal experiences, learn from professional presenters when they tell stories, learn the elements of a good story, collect stories and use video. He goes into more detail in his blog post, so I suggest you check it out.

Some people find it difficult to use personal experience, because… well, they think that their own life is kind of usual and boring, and that there is nothing special in it.

But that is simply not true. Yes, you might have not crossed the atlantic in a sailing boat, you might not have broken any world record, you might not have grown up in a ghetto, been shot twice and made millions – but all that stuff isn’t necessary for a great story.

The thing is – your experiences are rich and powerful, because they are filled with emotions. And that is what others can relate to. Maybe you’ve once walked by a beggar on the street on a cold winter day and avoided looking at him, pretending to not notice him.

And maybe later on the thought of that beggar kept nagging at you, and somehow you feel bad that you turned away instead of handing out a dollar or even just a dime to a person in need. Maybe that inspired you to never look away again, or to help, even if just a bit, every time you come across someone, or…

you see, there are literally thousands of stories that hide in your everyday experience – it’s not that you don’t have any stories. It’s simply that you don’t acknowledge them as such, you don’t believe in their potential.

You could tell a story of a visit to your dentist, or anything else – there is good story material in everything. Just train yourself to dig it out.


Tony DiTerlizzi is a very successful author – he created the Spiderwick Chronicles. But the most touching of all of his stories was when his little daughter got hospitalized after having seizures.

He was a writer – but then, he started to tell his own stories. And when he saw what effect it had on his daughter, he decided to do more of this, and is now regularly telling stories for kids in hospitals. Read the full story here…


Steve Denning On Storytelling in Leadership

Steve Denning, author of The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership),  is one of the foremost experts on storytelling in leadership. He surely knows a lot about the power of stories.

When you want to move people to take some kind of action, or change their thoughts – storytelling is one of the best techniques to do so. Yes, you can present people all the dry data, all the abstract numbers and facts in the world. And in your mind, these numbers and data and facts might draw a compelling picture. But it requires a lot of mental effort to see that picture for other people. Don’t make them do the work – do the work for them by SHOWING them the compelling picture. And the best way to draw a picture in another person’s mind is by storytelling.

If you work in the corporate world, you know already well enough about the powerpoint poison. It’s just boring. It’s putting people to sleep. (Yes, PowerPoints CAN be great – but most of the time, they are not).

When you lead other people, there are all kinds of challenges, problems, obstacles that need to be overcome. There are different goals that need to be aligned. With storytelling, you can create a narrative that inspires people to bundle their reasources and unify their goals, so that you really create a team.

All human beings are meaning-making-machines. With stories, you help people to create meaning out of lifeless mission statements, procedures, formal strategies, systems, budgets and charts.

Read what Steve Denning has to say on the importance of leadership and storytelling:

Why Leadership Storytelling Is Important

A while back, a colleague asked me why leadership storytelling is important. I came up with the following list:

Read the rest of the story on the Forbes blog…