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In Dan Pink’s excellent book, A Whole New Mind, one of the seven principles for succeeding in today’s “conceptual age” is story – the ability to create and share compelling narratives. Here are two exercises that can help you to improve your narrative capabilities.

In Dan Pink’s excellent book, A Whole New Mind, one of the seven principles for succeeding in today’s “conceptual age” is story – the ability to create and share compelling narratives. Dan explains in a chapter on storytelling that a great deal of knowledge is recorded, organized and shared as stories. Our brains record information not logically, but as patterns of experiences, or stories. And we explain ourselves and connect to others through stories. As usual, Dan provides some thought-provoking exercises at the end of this chapter. Here are two that I thought were particularly compelling:

Riff on opening lines: One way in which you can expand your narrative capabilities is to take a book or magazine, underline a sentence within it at random, and then use it as a springboard – as an opening line – to tell a story. “In a business setting, apply this exercise to a particular product, service or experience in your company. How can an opening line chosen more or less at random lead to a compelling tale about your offering? This ad-hoc, story-based approach might help you harpoon the big idea swimming around in the right side of your brain.”

Play photo finish: Select an image (from a magazine, newspaper or other source) at random, and create a tale about what is happening in the picture. “Challenge yourself not only to describe the obvious, but also to tell the ‘back story,’ the part that isn’t there or isn’t initially apparent.  Art and photography on display in museums (or on museum web sites) offer another rich source of material.”

As creative people, one of our challenges is to effectively sell our ideas. That’s why I think it’s important to develop your narrative capabilities, so you can wrap compelling and persuasive verbal imagery around your offerings. Often, the most effective way to sell a product, service or idea is not to appeal to your customers’ logical side, but to make an emotional appeal to them. The ability to craft a compelling story is a critical part of that process.

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