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Hollywood Executive Uncovers Four Truths to Storytelling


The art and craft of storytelling is gradually making its way into the business world. Once used primarily by novelists and moviemakers as a tool to connect plot and character with an audience, it is now being seen as an innovative strategic tool for companies to better connect with their customers.

The Harvard Business Review has published several stories on the subject, the most recent being this months article by Hollywood executive Peter Guber entitled "The Four Truths of the Storyteller." As a filmmaker and executive, Guber is in the business of telling stories. While he realizes the impact of storytelling on box office success, he also recognizes its power as a way to sway business audiences. As a salesperson, you'll have more success if you can tell a story in which the product is the hero. As a manager, storytelling can be used as a way of explaining how short term sacrifice can lead to long term business success.

A well crafted story and emotional narrative can also help CEO's attract investors and partners, set strategic goals and inspire employees and customers.

Whether in the entertainment or business world, stories have an incredible ability to connect with audiences in a way that more traditional business practices cannot. Market research and strategic planning are always important, but to establish a strong bond with customers requires the deep impact that storytelling can offer an audience.

How has your company used storytelling to connect with customers? Do you think more companies will be hiring people well versed in the fine art of storytelling? Do you see CEO's gradually becoming CSO's - Chief Storytelling Officers?


Karen Hegmann


You're right in that it's important to keep trying. In Hollywood, it's virtually impossible to predict a blockbuster, as it's hard to know what will connect with audiences.
It's the same in business and in advertising. Some things work, while others don't. With storytelling though, you have a better chance at succeeding through its ability to connect with customers at very deep levels.

Lewis Green


Some companies tells stories better than others: Cadillac does a much better job telling a story than Chevy, which I find interesting since they are both GM products.

For four decades the businesses I worked for and those I have started worked hard to create good stories. Sometimes we succeeded and sometimes we failed. But the lesson learned is that we need to keep trying.

Karen Hegmann


Thanks for sharing this great story, and welcome to the blog!

You're right about the ability of stories to identify challenges and opportunities. People remember stories, as they connect with us on a human level. The punchline in your story is also very memorable, as I could draw up a quick visual of this guy in my mind. Very effective.

Keep telling stories - the world will be a better place for it!

Anne Libby

Here's a great story, told to me shortly after I joined a bank trust company in the early 1990s. Years before, a client relationship VP, call him Bigsby Bowles (and his real name was almost this great), was known for always wearing a bowler hat.

Bigsby was off on a business trip, and the wind ripped the hat right off of his head.

He came back from the trip, and submitted an expense report. One line item was "Hat, $40." The expense report was rejected by the somewhat imperious accounts payable clerk.

Bowles took the report back, and created another report with the same grand total, same reimbursable amount, but sans the line item for the hat.

He handed the document to the A/P clerk with a flourish, grandly stating, "Find the hat."

His report was approved.

This company I worked for was a financial turnaround, a division that had been purchased from another financial institution. Whenever the story was retold, the punchline "Find the hat," would be met with raucous laughter.

Guess what, one of the big problem areas in this turnaround was a lack of financial controls.

I always ask to hear these sorts of stories when I'm thinking about working with or consulting to a company. They are extremely revealing, and can be helpful in finding problems or solutions. (One solution with these guys was that you had to have a sense of humor!)

I was unaware of the HBR articles; I'll have to catch up there. Thanks for this interesting post. (And for the opportunity to tell this story; it always makes me smile.)

Be well!

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