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Tell To Win

The Hidden Power of Story

Peter Guber

Stories put all the key facts into an emotional context. The information in a story doesn't just sit there like a logical argument. Instead it is built into a compelling narrative with challenge, struggle, resolution.

First you get listener's attention with unexpected challenge or question. Second, give them an emotional experience by narrating the struggle to overcome that challenge or find the answer to the question. Finally, galvanise their response with an eye-opening resolution that calls them to action.

Guy who found his staff had a 9 - 5 attitude, just turn up for work and not are what they achieved. So told them story about how his parents forced him to take piano lessons and do certain number of hours practice. He just mucked around and never put any mental commitment into learning anything. Years later he regretted wasting the opportunity to learn to play well. Told staff they were doing same thing, and that if continued, risk that the company would fold.

Humans have evolved to love stories because they explain a world that, although it's probably completely random, we want to see as predictable.

When he was running Sony, he wanted to get Thais to do something about the flood of counterfeit music and movies coming out of Bangkok. Set up a meeting with the Thai king, who he thought would be sympathetic because he knew that the King had been a pro musician in his youth. But the King told him "I sold 65,000 CD's of my work. Unfortunately, 55,000 of them were pirated. And I was the ruler. If I can't protect my own music in my own country, how can I help you?"

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Job candidates often fail to win over employers because all they present is their resume. Need to tell a story to shine a light on their abilities and skills that they can apply to help the company.

Linda Resnick, who, with her husband, owned the Franklin Mint at the time Jackie Kennedy Onassis jewellry being auctioned. One of the items was a string of cheap imitation pearls, which Resnick wanted so that Franklin could make replicas to sell as collectibles. The catalog estimate was at about $700 but she warned husband that the price was more likely to be around $25,000, because the pearls had a story attached. Most of the early photos of Jackie and little JFK jnr showed her wearing the pearls, and one particularly poignant one had him tugging on them. They wound up paying $211,000 for the necklace, by far the most expensive fake pearls in the world, but they sold 130,000 exact replicas at $200 each.

Guy who ran Blizzard Entertainment, developer of World of Warcraft, said what he was looking for in his designers was energy, curiosity and pride.

Bill Clinton 1992 first presidential campaign, nearly ran out of money. He phoned Guber, then Sony CEO, to try to get $90,000 that day. At the time, no individual was allowed to give more than $1000. How did Clinton convince Gruber to act? Gruber says that when Clinton called, there was a long pause, while he searched for the right story that would move me to action. Finally he said "You know the movie High Noon?" (It's the Gary Cooper film where the heroic sheriff spends most of the movie preparing to face a notorious gang who's arriving on the noon train. Sheriff hopes the town will back him up, but only one young boy has courage to stand with him.) "Peter, this is High Noon." He didn't need to say any more. I got it immediately, and it pressed my emotional buttons. Our hero, Bill Clinton, could brave his way to glory if I played the role of the lone supporter and backed him against all the odds.

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Gruber grabbed his head of marketing and told him the story and asked him how I should get the money. "Simple." he said, "Call everyone we know and tell them the same story." And that's what they did. "You know the movie High Noon? Well this is High Noon for Bill Clinton. We need you and your wife to each give a thousand dollars, and we need the cheques by high noon, which is 4pm today." And they had their $90,000 by 4pm.

Part of the power of this story (apart from the fact that it assigned a role to Gruber as the brave sidekick) was that it provided a hero. The hero is both a surrogate and a guide, the one the audience identifies with, and the one who does the right thing, encouraging the audience to do the same.

Author relates a conversation with Jack Warner, at a time when he was feeling overwhelmed by new job as head of Columbia Studios. Warner told him how to look at it: it's a zoo. You're the zookeeper. Every single person that comes to your office comes with a monkey. The monkey is their problem. They're trying to leave it with you. Your job is to discover where the monkey is. They'll hide it or try to dress it up. But you're the zookeeper and you ave to keep the place clean. So make sure that their monkey leaves with them, and don't let them come back until it's trained and they have a solution to their problem. Otherwise at the end of the day you're going to have an office full of screaming monkeys and you're going to be knee deep in monkey shit.

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The women's romance novelist Nora Roberts bought a historic inn in Maryland. She decorated each of the rooms to match a famous romance story, and trained her staff to recite the relevant story to each couple they showed to their room. The story of course had a happy-ever-after ending meant to inspire each guest.

Audience reaction when someone puts up Powerpoint slides and essentially reads them to them: "You could have just sent me an email - you have to add a story to what is up there.

Remember that 'perseverance' doesn't mean just doing the same thing over and over. Every rejection is the chance to learn something - to refine and improve your offering. "Feedback is the breakfast food of champions."

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All of us make decisions emotionally and then justify them intellectually afterward. But if we don't feel that emotional what's-in-it-for-me, we're unlikely to go to the next step.

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