STORY IS SERIOUS BUSINESS
Why Make It a Story?
“Your goal in every communication is to influence your Target Audience (change their current attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and behavior). Information alone rarely changes any of these. Research confirms that well-designed stories are the most effective vehicle for exerting influence.”
Storytelling has become the business, science, and brand marketing communications nom du jour. Periodicals from Forbes to Business Week to Parent to Discover and to Science are peppered with recent articles touting the value, power, and effectiveness of storytelling.
However, only a tiny fraction of all of the “stories” we hear or read accomplish those Herculean feats. Research tells us that less than 1% of all of the “stories” you hear/read have no effect on you. The rest do not create vivid images in your mind. They do not engage you on a deep emotional level. You do not remember them.
Question: What is it about those few effective stories that differentiates them from the rest? How do business stories persuade, teach, inspire, and exert influence? The practical answer lies in Haven’s research that documents the intersection of the essential elements of story structure and the story-based neural wiring and natural programming of the human brain.
The Role of Stories in Business Communications
“Stories are the life blood of a company’s ethics, morals, and culture. Change stories, history stories, “who-are-we” stories, “what-do-we-believe” stories—all create meaning and buy-in only through the core structural story elements identified by neural science research.”
Stories serve a variety of essential roles in a vibrant company: from communicating core values, beliefs, and attitudes, to garnering enthusiastic buy-in; from establishing brand identity to creating a strong Sense of Community within the frontline workforce; from fostering positive views of change to promoting company identity and pride; from essential internal communications to establishing customer and public lines of communication.
Effective stories are essential to organizational success. Both formal—planned—and informal and improvisational stories will always exist in a company culture. However, these stories won’t necessarily serve the company’s best interests. In 2007—2008 studies, over 1/3rd of nonprofit stories studied were actually counterproductive. They did more harm than good. In 2006—2010 research, less than half of corporate stories created for internal use produced measurable net positive effect.
Stories can be powerful and valuable company assets—but only when designed, engineered, and crafted to accomplish a specific purpose. For the past decade, Haven has led corporate clients to understand and master the principles, process, and tools for effect story creation and use. Your organization has powerful and essential stories. You need the skill of a trained craftsman to consistently shape and deliver them.
The Science of Story
“Humans are, literally, homo narratus (story animals). Our brains are hardwired to think in story terms. Yet few stories take advantage of the specific story structure that meets the informational and emotional needs of our brain’s wiring and programming.”
In briefest summary, the human brain has been evolutionarily hardwired to think in very specific story terms. Our minds are preprogrammed from before birth to make sense of incoming narrative information through story architecture. Both of these statements are backed by extensive research that Haven compiled from 16 fields of related science. This neuro- and cognitive-science research has established the existence of, and has confirmed the functioning of, the human Neural Story Net (a major connected network of sub-regions) hardwired from before birth to fire as a single processor and to make sense of incoming information using specific story informational elements.
Haven’s latest research has discovered the specific story elements that control story power and influence, the Neural Story Net and its Make Sense Mandate (the reason people misinterpret and twist your words when you try to communicate), the key story role of the concepts of Context & Relevance and their relationship to memory and recall, and the Eight Essential Elements that define effective narrative organization.
Organizations that master this story-science, and the architecture of effective stories, vastly increase their communications success.
The Process of Effective Story
"Effective stories don’t start with information or an event. They begin with an understanding of the intended audience and with the core message and linked mental images that the story is to communicate."
The word “story” doesn’t refer to your content, itself. Story is the structure, the framework onto which you hang the content you want to deliver, the way in which you organize, develop, and present that key information. Kendall Haven’s organizational story development process produces carefully crafted and designed stories that merge your messages and information (themes) with effective story structure (the Eight Essential Elements) into a form that produces the effect you seek.
You regularly use stories for both internal and external communication—even if you don’t consciously think that you do. You tell stories about your organization, mission, history, brands, passion, values, appeals, and people. More importantly, your Target Audiences always hear it as stories. They will make sense out of, understand, and interpret every word you say and every thing you write in story terms. They do that by creating their own mental “story versions” of your material. The Eight Essential Elements best ensure that their version accurately matches the story images and messages you want to plant in their mind and memory.
Haven also developed the first-ever explicit Story Influence Model and identified the key story variables that control a story’s potential to strongly influence a specific audience. They are part of the story process you can use to create consistently effective and memorable story-based material.
"There are specific tools and processes that allow you to consistently craft and control your own effective stories."
Haven guides you and your staff through the process of merging your specific messaging, information, and content into the elements of powerful story structure.
These services commonly includes:
• Story Developmant
- Identify and develop your core story themes and story-based material. Evaluate and score stories and develop story enhancements; increase the positive influence potential of your existing and developing story material.
• Development of In-House Story Mastery
- Work with you key leadership to develop their mastery of essential story tools, concepts, and techniques as well as their presentation and delivery skills. Design and provide presentations/workshops/ lectures on applying the science of story to the art of effective communications for your organization. Assist in establishing a company story culture and the mechanisms for story collection, archiving, editing, and distribution. Train key personnel on the process of conceiving and crafting consistently effective story-based material and presentations.
• Direct Coaching
- Coach you and your staff on story delivery and storytelling techniques to increase the power and effectiveness of your story. This can include pacing, stage use and management, gesture and habit control, identifying and countering nervous habits, as well as increasing the power of presentation delivery.
Specific tasks and services are individually defined and tailored to your exact needs and situation.
See client list at the bottom of Home Page.
"Want to teach them science? Tell them a good story! Fraught with mystery, struggle, inspiration, and sometimes great risk -- what better than storytelling can convey this most essential of human enterprises?Thank you, Kendall, for sharing the secrets of story with my team and me. It has helped us to do a much better job of letting our readers in on the fun of working at NASA."
-David Herring, NASA Earth Observatory Team Leader
"You ask Kendall Haven why certain ideas grab hold. Kendall responds, 'Because they were placed in story construct and story structure is hard-wired into the human brain through evolution, imbedded in your neural net.' That is classic Kendall Haven! He then takes it a step further by showing you how to frame your ideas along story-telling lines, using a story-telling structure. This puts you on a very creative track, such that you present your idea in the most powerful way. I have just told you a true story to showcase the high quality of Kendall’s work and its value for his clients. Consistently, over several years, Kendall’s exceptional engagement has enabled our Group to present its ideas in the most effective manner possible!"
-James R. Hogg, Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired), Director, Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group
"The quality of Kendall Haven’s work and his product throughout were simply fantastic and exceeded expectations. Kendall immersed himself in the subject matter and applied his experience. This process yielded excellent results, and drew the community of interest into the process and effort from start to finish. Kendall was able to scope an effort and use interview techniques and analyses that brought the key points to the surface quickly and with major emphasis and impact. Kendall’s insight and recommendations are “futuristic” for this organization."
-Steve Koepenick, Conference Chair, Unmanned Systems Interoperability Conference III, Sponsored by International AUVIS
“I count on Kendall Haven to deliver consistent excellence in all of his programs. My experience is that he never disappoints. Each of his programs has thrilled our attendees and has received top ratings. His research work has been comprehensive, profound in its importance, and easy for all to grasp and understand, and has jumped our organization far ahead of where it otherwise would be.”
- Jimmy Neil Smith, Founder and Executive Director, International Storytelling Center
"Kendall Haven was the keynote speaker and presented workshops the first day of our National Park Service Education and Interpretation Conference “Family of Voices: Telling the Untold Stories.” He was an excellent choice! With his science background and master storytelling skills, he created positive energy that permeated the entire conference and gave credence to all the workshops that followed. One NPS interpreter gave credit to Haven’s 8 Elements of Story being just what he needed to help him complete a program that he had been struggling with for so long. As coordinator of the conference, my thanks are inadequate to the contribution that Kendall made in creating a successful experience for all."
-Marie Malo, Education Technician, Amistad National Recreation Area, Del Rio, TX