Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) is making strides in their various platforms promoting storytelling as a commendable pedagogical tool of the modern new media era.
My eagerness to share with you the possibilities of stories as a pedagogical tool is not because Harvard U is backing and popularizing it. On the other hand I’m certain stories by nature are the best tool to evoke emotional bonding for better learning.
We know over our experience that influence is a core concept of any business activity. Buying products, hiring services, transact in shares and stock - all these need influence or effective persuasion to commit customers.
And storytelling is considered an organic, ever-effective tool for influencing when Slides and PowerPoint presentations fail.
I invite you to first understand the biological process that stories induce in human mind:
Storytelling actually arouses a strong neurological response.
Neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak’s (www.pauljzak.com) research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to concentrate and perhaps motivate.
Alternatively, the sweet and appealing factors of the characters or nature release oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes relativity and identification.
Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic.
How does Storytelling work in Business School Classrooms?
Information depending on analysis of data tends to speak to the students’ understanding (brainpower) – while stories stir their imagination and reach their feelings (emotions).
That's what makes story such a powerful tool to engage and motivate the students.
Working with the dynamics of storytelling will help faculties deliver their business messages in more compelling ways.
It will help them to present and communicate with passion and to engage directly with the students’ feelings.
We can employ stories effectively in the following spheres to:
Share our own experiences
Introduce a new topic
Illustrate a concept
Nurture listening skills
Attract less motivated learners
Now let’s look at these points in a bit more of detail.
STORY TO SHARE OUR OWN EXPERIENCES
When we know we are trying to teach a difficult concept, teach the class with a story of how we managed to understand and remember the concept when we were in their shoes.
Explaining the theory of disruptive innovation can be a hard concept for students to grasp, but by telling a story, they may understand that although we are visibly fixed firmly to the ground, there are forces of disruptions constantly working against us.
STORY TO INTRODUCE A NEW TOPIC
At the start of a lesson, we can use a story as a way of introducing a new topic.
STORY TO ILLUSTRATE A CONCEPT
Occasionally, straight figures and facts don't necessarily make for easy understanding, so throw in a narrative to help the class retain these hard facts.
STORY TO NURTURE LISTENING SKILLS
As young people progress through their early years, listening skills become increasingly important, and there’s no better way to improve attention span and listening skills than by telling stories to keep them attentive.
Of course, as useful as storytelling is, the stories should be relevant to the curriculum material for students to reap benefits.
STORY TO ATTRACT LESS MOTIVATED LEARNERS
Many students these days are completely averse to old-fashioned textbooks. At the same time, spending time sitting behind a computer without definitions does not help much either.
However, storytelling with a useful theme may engage the more lethargic learner. These are the students who you may engage the most if you throw in a few interesting stories to keep them motivated.
STORY TO PERSUADE
Influence is the core factor of business enterprise and growth, we all know. When we learn to effectuate influence we learn the fundamental business activity.
Too often in life, we learn from the stories we tell each other. And this is the organic way of learning things from life itself.
A story can well permeate into our heart easily well when material calculations and algorithms of scrutiny are denied admission.
And to gather that motivation we need to envelope our ideas in a story form that ignites the thoughts and stimulates emotions.
Business Leaders should embrace Stories?
Here’s an engaging story!
XR Infra (name changed for privacy reasons) constructs airports, tube rails, dams, hospitals and industrial multiplexes. But the question they faced was they had to gain contracts before they can construct.The marketing team at XR earlier used to employ the tactics of comparing numbers with the other players in the market along with XR’s unfailing commitment to timely delivery to project their USP and achieve contracts. Yet their success was limited to an average of about 10 per cent. Soon they realized that they should embrace stories. With the help of a story-mentor they learned the expertise to turn data into drama, evolving a story-driven proposal. They called it ‘XR XLs’ (pronounced as XR Excels) projecting XR as a hero in pursuit of technological excellence, reliable time-plans, see-through costing, sustainability, and worker-welfare. The high-point climax of XR-XLs story was on-time, on-budget, owner-ready structures that are litigation-free and visually exciting.
XR’s new approach to gaining contracts won them better customer prospects, as their conversions hiked from the mere 10 to a whopping 50 per cent. Soon XR brand spread over to many regions in India. ‘Embracing stories’ as winning story don’t limit just to XR. Many corporates the world over will vouch for it. Apart from their intimate bonding to statistics and numbers, trades and contracts today’s business leader must accept the benefits of the purpose-told story for all premeditated business routines – including training, sales, budgeting and, especially, branding. Brand is prominence.
Prominence plays destiny of any business nowadays. If we don’t learn to govern our own business-stories, and propagate it with a certain purposeful direction and force, other businesses that do it will tell their stories to overpower our business. That’s the going today.
Time has come for stories to carve corporate prospects!