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Give me the story, not reasons

story, Storytelling
We can’t bring people on board if we don’t engage with them emotionally. You can give me ten thousand reasons to buy a product, but if I don’t trust you I won’t buy.  In the same way you don’t need to give me a reason to buy if I trust you and see the benefits of your product or service. Reasons are powerless without empathy; they must talk to my personal and emotional universe that explains how I see and feel the world around me.  Have you ever been asked the following question at the checkout? “Have you found everything that you wanted, Madam?” Well, I’ve heard it thousands of times, and one day I dared to say “No, I didn’t. I couldn’t find brown sugar.”  “Oh, I’m sorry Madam,”…
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“I’m a rational person. I don’t do stories”

story, Storytelling
I’m a rational person too, and stories don’t come to me easily either. I like facts, I like precision, I like to know what I’m talking about.  I have this conversation with many people. Stories are emotional, yes, but stories are most of all a different way of looking, of connecting the dots and engaging with reality.  The power of a story lies not in narrating the success of your clients or your company’s latest figures. It’s about the meaning of your work, about emotions, about finding a place where things make sense for you and for others. Difficult, isn’t it? You can tell people that one of your clients got all these followers on social media or increased their sales after working with you but that isn’t a story,…
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Storytelling and connecting the dots

Storytelling
There’s a lot of advice out there about storytelling. Many resources about technique and structure – but somehow they don’t feel right. Sure, a story needs a beginning, a middle and an end, but what makes a story a story is connecting the dots. It’s making sense, offering an insight, teaching a lesson, creating meaning, engaging with the emotions. The structure helps, but a story isn’t a story just because of its architecture.  Once Hemingway was challenged to write a story in six words. This is what he wrote:  “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” This is a perfect example of a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. But what creates the story is the imagination and the emotions that it sparks – something the following story…
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Focus on the how, not on the what

competitive advantage
Focusing on business efficiency gave many companies in the world a great competitive advantage in the 1960’s and ’70’s. At that time everything was about being faster and more efficient in order to be the first to have access to the market.  In the information economy that emerged over the ’70’s the competitive advantage was based on extracting information. Companies such as IBM dominated the market because they knew how to get access to critical information. But times have changed again. We’re now living in the connection economy: the competitive advantage is in the ability to form meaningful connections. It doesn’t matter any more if you’re the first to have access to the market or you can gather critical and essential information faster than anybody else, as these can be…
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The right vision might take courage

indigenous peoples, vision
During the first years of my PhD I did a lot of research on my topic. I spent endless hours at the library reading books, materials and documents while my friends were partying in Ibiza and enjoying lazy days on the beach. I worked really hard.  At one point I thought I knew almost everything about my subject. I’m not kidding – even my supervisor was surprised at how much I’d accomplished in my first years. I was full of myself. That year I started teaching indigenous leaders about international law and human rights. In my head they were victims of the system and I was the hero lawyer who was going to help them use international law to defend themselves from governments and evil corporations.  I was an important…
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Homecoming got to me

story, Storytelling
When I sat down to watch the first episode of Homecoming I wanted to see how they had crafted the story. Homecoming tells the story of a facility in the US that helped soldiers to transition back into civilian life, and was nominated for three different Golden Globe awards.  One of the most intriguing things in the series is how they play with the narrative to suggest associations with concepts and emotions. The visuals, the music, the camera following the individuals moving through labyrinthine premises of the Homecoming program evoke different and uncertain plots. It is mysterious.  There’s one scene in which a janitor delivers yellow lamps to the rooms of the soldiers participating in the Homecoming programme. I remember thinking “This place looks like a mental institution.” Later I…
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The impact goes with the story

impact, story
She sits down, closes the door behind her and chooses the biggest table in the room. She starts spreading her Post-its around in a way that denotes that she’s done this thousands of times before. In a couple of minutes the room is illuminated with ideas spread around like confetti on a table that has witnessed birthdays, sleepless nights, innumerable craft activities and a couple of business meetings. She could be you, she could be me. We both dream about creating more impact and reaching more people. You can hear her head spinning and I can too. It’s a bubbling noise, an uninterrupted flow of ideas and connections. She carefully starts to organise the chaos. The colours, pencils and Post-its are now placed in an orderly manner on the table,…
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Don’t look for the story in your job description

job, story
Every Thursday I had to climb 120 steps to reach the lecture theatre where 150 first-year students were waiting for me to teach them about public international law. I was seven months pregnant, and all what I really wanted to do, apart from eating chocolate and sleeping, was to show them that they could change the world, that international law is something actionable that people like us can use. I failed. They didn’t believe me, no matter how hard I tried. The only attention I got from them was an email from the student representative complaining that Dr Alvarez used Spanish in written assignments, to which I was forced to reply with great disappointment that if the students were referring to expressions such as status nascendi the language is Latin,…
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Between magic and technique

Storytelling
Storytelling is part art, part technique. Or maybe it’s part magic and part technique.  While you probably agree with the technique part, magic may sound a bit odd. The magic comes when trust that you can gain great benefit and achieve more when you connect emotionally to your story, or as Brené Brown puts it, when you dare to be vulnerable. Before we can influence anybody, we need to let them see us.  The first story we need to tell them is “Why I'm standing here telling you this”. We can tell a perfectly crafted story, but first we need to earn the right to be listened to, which only comes when we connect with our story emotionally.  Don’t think of stories as a technique for getting people to do…
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Purpose and fear

fear, purpose
We’ve learnt that we need to overcome fear; that we don’t have to ponder excessively over what we should do next. The best course of action is to act, otherwise our best work will never see the light. However, I’ve been wondering for a while whether fear is a pointer. Perhaps fear is trying to tell us that there’s something important that we aren’t considering or looking into. Fear magnifies things and charges them emotionally, and in consequence we get the message not to go there. But what if the message is about looking at this hidden matter and paying close attention to it? What if fear is not so much about choosing between doing or not doing?   Is there danger in publishing your novel? Is there danger in…
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