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Guide to Storytelling

PCDN Global

February 18, 2014


Stories matter to people, and when you get one that really hits, it’s incredibly powerful – irresistible even.

Americans alone spent over 34 billion dollars to watch movies in 2010.

Story is about connection.

Stories are containers—holding experiences, history, and values.


Stories are what people remember and what people share naturally.

Stories have more resonance with people than more traditional presentation formats.

Where we might very easily forget a headline or a list or a number, we remember in stories.

We seek out stories as a way of making sense of our experiences and the world around us.


Stories touch deep psychological processes of perception, learning and memory.

Cognitive psychology tells us that the human mind has evolved a narrative sensemaking faculty that allows us to perceive and experience the chaos of reality in such a way that the brain then reassembles the various bits of experience into a story in the effort to understand and remember.

Stories balance the logical (sequence) and the emotional (empathy) aspects of our brains.


Predating the written word, oral storytelling developed alongside the development of speech within every known culture.  Stories are a universal art form and are held within the fiber of every culture.

Anyone can tell a story, regardless of age, race, gender, level of “expertise” or position, or “high or low-tech” – an equalizer.

When you hear a well-told story about a fight between two brothers, your brain says, “Oh yea, my brother is just like that!”

Storytelling “tempts” people to listen to each other. This can open channels of communication between people from different backgrounds.

Stories give voice to otherwise silent perspectives and allow multiple perspectives to emerge.

The act of listening, suspending judgment, knowing each other – are all powerful in building empathetic relationships (and in the case of aid, strong partnerships).


Humans like to imagine – stories are fun! They captivate us in relevant, compelling & credible ways.

Stories are not “simple” – they can sophisticatedly and elegantly convey complex, ambiguous and abstract concepts in concrete and practical ways.

Stories allow play to have meaning in the context of work (where we are not supposed to act “childlike”).

Stories inspire people towards action/change by capturing the imagination and leading by example, rather than persuading with rhetoric—‘What if’ rather than ‘that’s why’

We don't need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of do's and don'ts: we need books, time, and silence. “Thou shalt not” is soon forgotten but “Once upon a time” lasts forever.” ~Phillip Pullman, author


Stories also include place, characters, and context (exposition).

Meaning is more important than accuracy.

The challenge then is to consider whether story, used explicitly as a tool, can unlock a flow or dynamic which will replenish and nurture the knowledge assets of an organization as a whole?

Storytelling is already operating, just under the guise of measurement and management.

Stories are a tool of knowledge assets custodianship and exchange.

Storytelling in some ways threatens the normal individual and collective assumptions of what makes power, control and career ladders operate in an organization.

The written word is established as a controlling way to constrain and contain knowledge and make commoditization of knowledge possible.

Gathering and understanding stories about practical working realities brings forth the multiplicity of individual and group values, beliefs, motivations and assumptions behind organizational behaviors which may be frustrating transformation efforts.


Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a state of mind.

No stories without data. No data without stories.

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