Two writers / one story – a methodolgy

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When I worked in movies, I often had writers moaning that their work can be so solitude and depressing at times. Also they were haunted by this thing called “writer´s block” and had nobody they could discuss new ideas with.

However, when I suggested to bring in a co-author they heavily rejected as it never worked out for them. Never. Mainly due to “creative differences”; this basically means that one author kept on deleting the other author´s favorite bits and vice versa.

For that reason I came up with a little step-by-step methodology that helps two authors writing on the same project without interfering with each other´s work too much.

Separate creating from analyzing … !

And here it is:

  • Assumptions

People die in analysis. This methodology separates creation steps from analysis and allows to write a first draft in a relative short time frame.

My strong belief is: When you write, you write. When you edit, you edit. Those should be completely separate tasks.

If you edit and criticise your own work while you´re writing, chances are that you deprive yourself from the most unusual and best ideas. There is constantly this little critic sitting on your shoulder and wants you to cut the bad bits.

But remember Hemingway´s words: ‘the first draft is always bad’. It is your job is to get something on the page in the first place. Anything. Then at least you have some content to work on. (A lot of aspiring writers fail at that stage as they are too afraid to make mistakes and rather don´t do anything)

(Please note that this methodology was designed for screenwriters. However, it can be arguably used for any kind of writing project. Fiction or Non-Fiction.)

Cut means cut

  • Rules (yes, they are necessary)
  1. No commenting, criticizing or analyzing of the other author´s writing efforts in creation times in any shape or form. There are dedicated analysis slots where you can discuss and analyze the work.
  2. If a story-element gets cut by any author, it is out for good with no discussions and cannot be re-introduced. (This is the most important bit. If you don´t follow it, one author will be deleting the other author´s darlings, and the other author will re-introduce them and then the other author will cut them again and so and so on. An infinite vicious circle)
  • Time

No time limit or goals; though the process should be quick to not lose momentum. Ideally don´t leave more than a week in-between steps.

Groundwork

STEPS

  • Groundwork: This is the step when the two writers sit together and decide on some basics. For simplicity reasons I call them writer A and B from now on.

Writers A and B agree on:

  1. a premise (a simple “what if”-question that reflects the story they do want to write about; e.g. the premise of Jaws: What if a big white shark attacks a beach resort? Simple)
  2. a genre (could be a mixed genre like SciFi-Comedy)
  3. a controlling idea (the message; what do you want to express with your story?)
  4. a setting (could be multiple settings, e.g. a road movie)
  5. the tone of voice (that´s an important one; if the two writers write with different tones it will be hard to get the story together)
  6. main characters (ideally aim for 1-3 main and 4-5 side characters for the start)

Step-by-Step development

Ok, now that the groundwork is done, the writers start working separately and hand over their work after each step.

  • Step I – Creation: Writer A writes an expose (2-3 pages) based on the agreed groundwork and hands it over to B
  • Step II – Creation: Writer B re-writes the expose, cuts, amends and adds whatever he wants.
  • Step III – Creation: Writer A re-writes what he gets from Writer B.
  • Step IV – Analysis: Writers A and B get together and discuss what they created so far.
  • Step V – Creation: Writer B writes a beat sheet (one sentence for each beat/scene) based on the expose and discussion.
  • Step VI – Creation: Writer B re-writes the beat sheet.
  • Step VII – Creation: Writer A re-writes and polishes the beat sheet.
  •  Step VIII – Analysis: Writers A and B get 
together and discuss what they created so far.
  •  Step IX – Creation: Writer A writes the first draft ; based on the beat sheet and discussions 
(this is probably the longest step).
  •  Step X – Creation: Writer B re-writes and hands over.
  •  Step XI – Creation: Writer A re-writes and 
polishes the first draft.
  •  Step XII: Discussions, dialogue polishing. DONE!

DONE!

Congratulations! At this point you should have a workable first draft. Now you can repeat steps X-XII until you´re happy enough with your result to get it out there.

Worth a try. We had some good results with this method. Really.

Oh, and if you try it, it would be interesting to hear what you are experiences were….

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Books of Note: WEEK # 3 – ‘Grief is the Thing with Feathers’ by Max Porter

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After I started the year with two classics by Tolstoy and Conrad, I decided to read a modern piece by a newcomer next: ‘Grief is the thing with feathers’ by Max Porter. A very friendly Swedish bookseller in Hammersmith recommended me this book and I was not disappointed at all. (I told her about my book challenge and that I need books for people who don´t have time to read.)

Anyway, ‘Grief is the thing with feathers was a very moving and interesting read as it comes a long with an interesting storyline, a very relatable core theme and interesting narrative elements I have not come across yet. Also chapeau to whoever designed the layout and the book cover; very appealing and they reflect the theme and mood of this book perfectly.

“Grief is a long-term project”

What it is about:

It is about a father of two who is trying to cope with the unexpected death of his wife.

Why it matters:

The book touches on very universal themes: deep loving, the perks of single-parenthood, how to overcome grief and there are also hints at coming-of age subjects. The structure and narrative elements are very interesting and added something new to my reading experience. (see storytelling elements). Oh, and for the award-obsessed readers among you; this book has a nice award record: Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2016;Shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize 2015; Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2015 and others.

Favourite Sentences:

“Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain that is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.”

“An excellent ear for the flexibility of language and tone”

Storytelling elements:

The story works in a conventional 3-act structure. The third act and resolution are maybe a bit too convenient. However, what makes the read really interesting are its narrative elements: the story is told from three different perspectives: the father´s, the sons´ and the crow. Every single one of the narrating characters has its own distinct tone-of-voice and progresses quite significantly over the course of the story. The author jumps back and forth in time and also uses stylistic elements such as metaphors and poetry to move the story forward.

Some trivia:

The author seems to be an admirer of the English poet Ted Hughes; the protagonist of the book has a memorable fan encounter with Ted. In real life Ted Hughes had two children with Sylvia Plath who committed suicide, which left Ted as a widower and single parent of two. Art imitates life.

What others said:

„Porter has an excellent ear for the flexibility of language and tone, juxtaposing colloquialisms against poetic images and metaphors. The result is a book that has the living, breathing quality of the title’s “thing with feathers.”

– Katie Kitamura, New York Times –

 

Thanks, Katie.

Very good read indeed. Oh, and for the people who think they don´t have time to read: It took me only two hours to read so you can read it, too.

The journey continues…

Who is Barack Obama? … or why the ‘This is who I am’ story is your biggest asset

 

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From time to time I touch on stories that people in general and managers in particular should know about themselves.

The first and most important one is the ‘This is who I am’-story that tells about your background and the way you got to where you are right now.

Why is it so important?

Well, for a starter it is totally unique, it is yours. Nobody else on this planet shares this story; not even your identical twin.

Even more so our ‘backstory’ is also one of our greatest assets in building credibility and trust. Telling our personal life in story form with all its ups and downs is way more influential than just saying who we are now. Hearing something personal about you and your life builds trust.

Think about it. A lot of challenges in business (and life) are about influencing others and convincing others to do something you like them to do.

And what do you need before you can influence somebody? Yes, trust! Unfortunately a lot of bad leaders skip the trust step when trying to influence.

But would you buy something from somebody you don´t trust? Highly unlikely.

Trust comes before influence

People hate nothing more than vanity but they like people who show humility and admit to their flaws and shortcomings. They like to hear something personal about you. That builds trust. So tell them something unique about your upbringing, be open, admit to your flaws. People will appreciate that.

Barack who?

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Want a real life example?

Let´s wind back 13 years to see how somebody very prominently and successfully told his very own ‘This is who I am’ story: Barack Obama.

‘Barack who?’ …you would have asked in early 2004; but after July 26th 2004 basically the whole of the USA knew who Barack Obama was. On that day Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, seen by 9.1 million viewers.

Obama gave an exhilarating speech about his challenging upbringing; about his parents who had a multi-racial marriage in shaky times, his father leaving his mum when he was a toddler. His father only visted him once in 1971 and died in an automobile accident in 1982. His mother died in 1995 from cancer. So Obama was an orphan at the age of 34.

But he never gave up. He went on to study at the prestigious Harvard Law School and University and worked as an associate in a law firm and a lecturer and later on joined the democratic party.

That´s the story he told . Very personal, full of ups and downs and flaws; just as his life was.

Obama told his very own backstory

Obama could have told several other stories that night; about the slowing economy, the shortcomings of the Republicans and President Bush or whatever politicians love to talk about. But he decided to tell a very personal story about himself. His very own ‘This is who I am’ story’

And successful it was.

Many analysts still regard this particular keynote as the speech that later made him president. It is basically an early predecessor of his `Yes, we can’ movement that won him the presidency.

Immediately after the speech MSNBC host Chris Matthews admitted, “I have to tell you, a little chill in my legs right now. That is an amazing moment in history right there. It is surely an amazing moment. A keynoter like I have never heard.” He added later in the night, “…I have seen the first black president there.”

We now know that Chris was right.

So go out and tell your very own ‘This is who I am’ story. Keep it fresh. Don´t hide your flaws and shortcomings. They are part of who you are.

People appreciate authenticity. Always.

Oh, and here is Obama´s speech from 2004. Enjoy!

 

Books of Note: WEEK # 2 – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Week 2 of my personal 2017-52-book-challenge. I read a book which was always high up on my list: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad which was inspired by Conrad’s own journey to Congo in 1890.

I always wanted to read this book as it is the basis of the best war movie ever made: Apocalypse Now. Francis Ford Coppola adapted the book but transposed the action to 1960s Vietnam.

Like the movie, the book is a challenging and psychedelic trip. It is poetic and cruel at the same time; a road trip without a road and overall an unsettling experience. The deeper the protagonist travels into the jungle the higher the sense of impending danger gets.

“Droll thing life is”

What it is about:

It is about a man who travels down a river to bring back a rogue ivory trader who is worshiped like a god by natives in the 19th century Congolese jungle.

Why it matters:

The book still heavily resonates over 100 years after it was written and it is probably Conrad´s finest work (though not very popular during his lifetime). It is not only about a personal hellish trip in 1890s Congo but also a strong condemnation of colonialism and racism. When the protagonist gets back from Africa he cannot stand modern western society anymore with its consumerism and cynical chase for money. At the end the reader asks himself if London or the Congo is the real heart of darkness. Historically Heart of Darkness is regarded by many literature critics as one of the first examples of modernism.

Favourite Sentences:

“Droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself — that comes too late — a crop of inextinguishable regrets.”

Storytelling elements:

The whole story is narrated in flashbacks. The narrator is unreliable and jumps back and forth in time. I am not sure why Conrad decided to tell the story in flashbacks. I guess he wanted to show what impact the protagonist´s experience in the Congo had on his later life. Maybe he did so because the story was based on his own memories. The narrator is his Alter Ego.

Some trivia:

Orson Welles himself wanted to make Heart of Darkness his first film project. The film was never made for various reasons and is nowadays ranked highly in the list of the greatest movie never made. Orson went on to make Citizen Kane instead and the rest is film history.

What others said:

„Some of the story´s power comes from its eloquent denunciation of the conceit behind colonialism and some from the harrowing thought that humanity has actually behaved like this. But its real power for me is that when I next pick it up, I know I will feel something new.“ – Tim Butcher, The Telegraph –

 

Conrad claimed that he witnessed most of what happens in the book himself in 1890s Congo, saying it was “experience… pushed a little (and only very little) beyond the actual facts of the case”.

This proves again that life itself writes the best (and in this case) cruelest stories…

 

Books of Note 2017: WEEK # 1 – The Death of Ivan Ilyich

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Yes. I started my 2017-52-book-challenge in week one of January and I started with a good one: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, a Novella by Leo Tolstoy himself. It is a late work of Tolstoy and, well, not exactly an uplifting read but very deep and thoughtful.

It took me only 3 hours to read the 88 pages and I guess the more experienced readers among you could read it easily in less than 2 hours max. And you should.

Interestingly enough one of my personal favourite Akira Kurosawa movies, Ikiru from 1955, is loosely based on this book. One master influenced another. As Woody Allen said: “If you steal, steal from the best”. Kurosawa´s movie is more positive though in the end.

A reminder on our Mortality

Back to the Death of Ivan Ilyich.

What it is about:

It is a bout a man who realises only on his deathbed that he lived a meaningless life.

Why it matters:

I guess most of Tolstoy´s work matters. This novella in particular reminds us that we are all mortal and should check from time to time if our life has a meaning to avoid deep regrets and misery at the end.

Favourite Sentences:

“There also the further back he looked the more life there had been. There had been more of what was good in life and more of life itself. The two merged together. “Just as the pain went on getting worse and worse, so my life grew worse and worse,” he thought.

What others said:

„Tolstoy’s book is about many things: the tyranny of bourgeois niceties, the terrible weak spots of the human heart, the primacy and elision of death. But more than anything, I would offer, it is about the consequences of living without meaning, that is, without a true and abiding connection to one’s life“ – Psychologist Mark Freeman –

 

Agreed, Mark.

That´s it. Good read. Makes you think. In story terms there is very little external action, which is compensated by a deep inner thought process of the book´s protagonist.

BOOKS of Note – My personal 2017 book challenge

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As part of my New Year resolution I decided to read 52 books this year. One every week. Yes! You might think that sounds a bit superficial and you are right. But it will make me read. A lot.

For that reason I asked my friends to recommend me a book that absolutely has to be on such list. Could be anything. Non-fiction or fiction or even graphic novels.

The only limitation was that the books can´t be tooooo long and could be realistically read in a week (besides work). I am not the fastest reader after all. (Thanks Kay, for recommending The Count of Monte Cristo…)

The below list is what they came back with. I realised again what a diverse and well-read circle of friends I have. There might be an inspirational read for some of you, too. And if you can recommend any further readings…fire away!

OK; now I better start reading…

 

Books of note – as recommended by my friends

FICTION
Title Author Kind Country
The Quiet American Graham Greene Fiction UK
Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis Fiction UK
Ravelstein Saul Bellow Fiction Canada
Headhunters Jo Nesbo Fiction Norway
Ulysses James Joyce Fiction Ireland
Atomised Michel Houellebecq Fiction France
I am pilgrim Terry Hayes Fiction UK
the pillars of the earth Ken Follett Fiction UK
The Waterproof Bible Andrew Kaufman Fiction Canada
No Name Wilkie Collins Fiction UK
One Thousand and One Nights Div Fiction Div
Hector and the Search for Happiness Francois Lelord Fiction France
The Martian andy weir Fiction USA
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Michael Chabon Fiction USA
Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood Fiction Canada
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Haruki Murakami Fiction Japan
The Innocent Ian McEwan Fiction UK
Dead Poets Society Nancy H Kleinbaum Fiction USA
ON SEEING THE 100% PERFECT GIRL ONE BEAUTIFUL APRIL MORNING Haruki Murakami Fiction Japan
The Execution of Justice Friedrich Dürrenmatt Fiction Switzerland
Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde Fiction Ireland
Summerhouse, later Judith Hermann Fiction Germany
Wild Swans Jung Chang Fiction China
Scarfolk Richard Littler Fiction UK
A Heart So White Javier Marias Fiction Spain
The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafón Fiction Spain
City of Marvels Eduardo Garriga Fiction Spain
Homo Faber Max Frisch Fiction Switzerland
The power of the dog Don Winslow Fiction USA
Water for elephants Sara Gruen Fiction Canada
A fine balance Rohinton Mistry Fiction India
Lolita Vladimir Nabokov Fiction USA
Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides Fiction USA
Orlando Virginia Woolf Fiction UK
Rivers of London Ben Aaronovitch Fiction UK
Sonnets William Shakespeare Fiction UK
Oliver Twist Charles Dickens Fiction UK
Neverwhere Neil Gaiman Fiction UK
The White Tiger Aravind Adiga Fiction India
The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Fiction Afghanistan
Anna karenina Leo Tolstoy Fiction Russia
War and Peace Leo Tolstoy Fiction Russia
No one Belongs Here More Than You Miranda July Fiction USA
Care of Wooden Floors Will Wiles Fiction UK
Celestine Prophecy James Redfield Fiction USA
Silk Alessandro Baricco Fiction Italy
Lennon is dead Alexander Osang Fiction Germany
When the lion feeds Wilbur Smith Fiction South Africa
The alchemist Paulo Coelho Fiction Brazil
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital Lorrie Moore Fiction USA
A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara Fiction USA
Right Ho, Jeeves P. G. Wodehouse Fiction UK
Stories we could tell Tony Parsons Fiction UK
Dark Matter Juli Zeh Fiction Germany
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky Fiction Russia
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad Fiction UK
Ham on rye Charles Bukowski Fiction USA
a prayer for Owen meany John Irving Fiction USA
My cousin Rachel Daphne Du Maurier Fiction UK
The 100 year old man climbed out of a window and disappeared Jonas Jonasson Fiction Sweden
The Flatey Enigma Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson Fiction Iceland
Bamboo Road Ann Bennett Fiction UK
Half of a Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Fiction Nigeria
The Blizzard Vladimir Georgievich Sorokin Fiction Russia
The Discreet Hero Mario Vargas-Llosa Fiction Peru
Distant Star Roberto Bolano Fiction Chile
The time, the time Martin Suter Fiction Switzerland
Friday Night Lights Buzz Bissinger Fiction USA
PS, I Love You Cecelia Ahern Fiction Ireland
May We Be Forgiven A. M. Homes Fiction USA
The Count of Monte Cristo Alexander Dumas Fiction France
Capital john lanchester Fiction UK
Last Night in Twisted River John Irving Fiction USA
Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy John Le Carre Fiction UK
The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson Fiction UK
Anthem Ayn Rand Fiction USA
The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman Fiction USA
The overcoat Nikolai Gogol Fiction Russia
The 39 steps John Buchan Fiction UK
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson Fiction USA
The Sun also rises Ernest Hemingway Fiction USA
Journey to the end of the night Louis-Ferdinand Celine Fiction France
Peter and Mary go fishing Nat Darke Fiction East-Germany
NON-FICTION
Becoming Animal David Abram Non-Fiction USA
Destiny Disrupted Tamim Ansary Non-Fiction Afghanistan
Good Strategy Bad Strategy Richard Rumelt Non-Fiction USA
Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill Matthieu Ricard Non-Fiction France
EGO Frank Schirrmacher Non-Fiction Germany
Debt: The First 5,000 Years David Graeber Non-Fiction USA
Pretty Boy Roy Shaw Non-Fiction UK
Mr Nice Howard Marks Non-Fiction UK
Little Book of Hygge Meik Wiking Non-Fiction Danmark
Design your life Bill Burnett Non-Fiction USA
Bossypants Tina Fey Non-Fiction USA
Me talk pretty one day David Sedaris Non-Fiction USA
Shoe Dog Phil Knight Non-Fiction USA
Sailing Alone Around the World Joshua Slocum Non-Fiction Canada
Sextant David Barrie Non-Fiction UK
When Genius Failed Roger Lowenstein Non-Fiction USA
The Big Short Michael Lewis Non-Fiction USA
Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future Ashlee Vance Non-Fiction USA
Into Thin Air Jon Krakauer Non-Fiction USA
Extreme Metaphors JG Ballard Non-Fiction UK
My Lunches with Orson Orson Welles Non-Fiction USA
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed Jon Ronson Non-Fiction UK
Deep Survival Laurence Gonzales Non-Fiction USA
In Cold blood Truman Capote Non-Fiction USA
The man who mistook his wife for a hat Oliver Sacks Non-Fiction UK
Leaders eat last Simon Sinek Non-Fiction USA
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Non-Fiction USA
Shakespeare Bill Bryson Non-Fiction UK
Cosmos and Psyche Richard Tarnas Non-Fiction USA
GRAPHIC NOVELS
Habibi Craig Thompson Graphic Novel/Picture Book USA
Black Hole Charles Burns Graphic Novel/Picture Book USA
From Hell Alan Moore Graphic Novel/Picture Book UK
Calvin and Hobbes Bill Watterson Graphic Novel/Picture Book USA
The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein Graphic Novel/Picture Book USA

The value of I-know-what-you are-thinking stories

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I recently gave a workshop for senior executives about „Storytelling for leaders“. Senior managers as they are, do not have a lot of time. So the very first thing they wanted to know was what the most important story tool for them would be.

Of course there is no such thing as the most important story tool. However, knowing that leaders are often in negotiation or sales talks, I said that one of the most important leadership stories is the “I-know-what-you are-thinking story”.

This is basically a story that repeats the other person`s concerns or objections.

Why? When you tell this story, it makes people wonder if you are reading their minds and most often they appreciate it. Also if you name their objections first before they do, you disarm them. You basically steal their biggest argument against your standpoint and defuse their concerns without direct confrontation.

This story disarms and de-escalates

If you have done your homework on the group or person you wish to influence it is relatively easy to identify their potential objections to your message. E.g.: In my undergrad years I had this business mathematics lecturer and when he first came in he said: “I am a mathematician and this will be the most boring hour of your entire life.” And he was right, that is exactly what every student room in the room was thinking. But then he went on and defied expectations by telling highly silly and entertaining stories about the world of mathematics. People loved it. He read our minds, detected our major fear – “this is going to be boring” – and removed that fear with a fun story.

So next time you face an unpleasant conversation or sales pitch, think of your counterparts objections beforehand and then give him the I-know-what-you are-thinking story before you even start a difficult discussion. It will not only take the heat of the conversation but also steal your counterpart her or his biggest argumentative weapon.

Really.

Storytelling in the stone ages

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Before we look at what storytelling was first used for, let´s take a look what a story actually is: In its core, a story is a narrative account of an event or events – true or fictional. The difference between giving an example and telling a story is the addition of emotional content and added sensory details in the telling.

Knowledge management in caves

Anybody have a good guess how old storytelling actually is!? Yes, stories and myths are actually as old as mankind. Round about 27.000 years old. The first signs of narratives were cave paintings.

It is also interesting to see what stories were first used for. In modern business terms we would say for a) Knowledge management and b) Corporate Culture.

Yes, really!

Of T-Rexs and warriors

Think about it; in the absence of written words and other information media, stories worked as a means for transferring knowledge throughout the tribes; and warnings. They weren´t any signposts saying “Danger, you´re entering the T-Rex area”. No; people of the tribe would tell the legend of the hero hunter who was slaughtered behind the rock formations by a giant T-Rex so that other people of their tribe wouldn´t hunt there.

Storytelling in the stone ages also helped the first human tribes to define themselves through myths. These stories helped shape the identity of the tribe, gave it values and boundaries, and helped establish its reputation among rivalling tribes. Improving the corporate culture as a modern time management consultant would say.

Oral tradition

It is called the oral tradition. In the absence of modern media products it needed storytellers to orally transport those messages over geographic distances and generations.

It was storytelling in its purest from.

Find your core

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Simplicity is key

Ever heard of the Curse of Knowledge? This is what happens when you know so much about your subject matter that you run in danger to lose your audience. Always remember that you are the expert in whatever story you tell. You have to assume that your audience doesn´t know remotely as much about your subject matter as you do so you have to make it easy for them to follow you.

Legend has it that Albert Einstein only had one soap he used both for washing and shaving. Why add more complexity if you do not have to?

There cannot be six most important goals or five key messages. One key message is enough. Good design is achieved not when there´s nothing left to add but when there´s nothing left that can be removed.

It is the same with stories you tell. No matter how complicated your story might be, the main idea must be simple and universally understandable. Otherwise your audience might not get the point you´re trying to bring across.

Find the core before you tell

Journalists call it the lead. It is the most important bit of an article or a news story, which ordinarily comes at the beginning. Some journalists spend round 80% of their time to find the lead and once they found it the rest of the article is written relatively quickly.

This is how you should do it next time you give a business presentation. Spend some time to find the core of your story and how to convey it in a simple and understandable manner. If you don´t understand it, nobody else will.

Learn from the best

One good exercise on how to distil your story to the core comes from Alfred Hitchcock himself. After he and his screenwriters have written a story, they put it in a drawer for a week. Then they would retell each other the story by heart and every element that they have forgotten about was cut from the story as they assumed it couldn´t have been that important. Try it out.

For example the core of this blog is hoe to apply stories in business. Simple.

First thing Steve Jobs said at his iconic presentation of the very first iphone:`We’re gonna reinvent the phone`. That was the core of his story.

Simple.

Who likes stories?

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I´ve recently been asked who likes stories. The answer is simple: everybody. Literally EVERYBODY. Stories are probably one of the most demographic-proof arts in the world: Everybody – regardless of age, race or gender, cultural or societal background – likes to listen to a good story. And the beauty is: stories work everywhere the same; as it has been proven in Joseph Campbell´s groundbreaking work  `the hero with a thousand faces`.  No matter if you tell a story to an Inuit fisherman, an Australian construction worker or a hunter from Senegal. All of them will appreciate and understand the same good story.

The American dream is a story

Every nation, religion and culture has their own stories and myths that gives them identity and holds them together. Take the bible, or the Talmud or the Quran. Those books tell one story and one myth after the other. For over 2000 years through parables and stories, the bible has given us a set of guidelines and moral laws, which is deeply embedded in western society.

Or think about the American dream. It was basically a story of hope that lured millions of immigrants to America and made it the most powerful economy in the world.

Multinationals are like ancient tribes

So why are stories so important in today´s globalized business world? The reason is simple. Nowadays, fifty of the one hundred biggest economies are multinational corporations. Though there are many differences in culture, language and backgrounds among employees around the world, stories and myths of the corporation give them identity and hold them together.

In many ways the modern corporation resembles ancient tribes: the stories that circulate in and around the organization paint a picture of the company´s culture and values, heroes and enemies, good points and bad, both towards employees and customers. By sharing stories we define who we are and what we stand for.