In 1944, two psychologists made a brief animated movie. Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel’s movie was part of a study entitled “An Experimental Study of Apparent Behavior,” and consisted of two triangles, a dot, and a box:
These inanimate objects moved around the screen and “interacted” with each other. When test subjects were asked to describe the actions of the triangles, dot, and box they explained what they saw in terms of a story.
“Oh, that one is a bully!”
“They’re fighting over the girl.”
“Oh no! The dot is trapped!”
Please understand, this simple animated black and white movie didn’t have music, didn’t have voices or sound effects—it was simply two triangles, a dot, and a box. Yet the only way to explain what the viewers were watching, each resorted to giving the objects personalities and telling a story!
“Results from a dozen prominent cognitive scientists and developmental psychologists have confirmed that human minds do rely on stories and on story architecture as the primary roadmap for understanding, making sense of, remembering our lives—as well as countless experiences and narratives along the way,” reports Kendall Haven, in his book Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. He continues, “In our enlightened, literate, scientific, rational, advanced world, it is still story structure that lies at the core of human mental functioning.”
Stories are the most efficient and effective structural vehicles to use if you need to motivate, teach and communicate factual, conceptual, and tacit information (that’s stuff that has to do with attitudes, beliefs, values, and expectations).
For example, your product isn’t “just a desk lamp,” look at what Pixar did with their desk lamp!
Tell a story! Problem – Solution. A day in the life of… How it was before your product or service and how much better it is now. Here’s a Problem – Solution examle:
This is a brief animation we did for the National Safety Council for their campaign about “listening to your car”:
The takeaway is this: the next time your organization needs to provide employee orientation or training, or explain how your mousetrap is better than all other mousetraps, start with a story!
And don’t forget to let us help!