On the recommendation of somebody in Children’s Music Network, I just finished reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. They list six ways to get an idea to stick. In their chapter on stories (stories are principle six), they refer to a guy named Stephen Denning of the World Bank who made a big change in his organization’s information operations by telling a story.
“Denning says that the idea of telling stories initially violated his intuition. He had always believed in the value of being direct, and he worried that stories were too ambiguous, too peripheral, too anecdotal. He thought, ‘Why not spell out the message directly? ...Why not hit the listeners between the eyes?’
“The problem is that when you hit listeners between the eyes they respond by fighting back. The way you deliver a message to them is a cue to how they should react. If you make an argument, you’re implicitly asking them to evaluate your argument—judge it, debate it, criticize it—and then argue back, at least in their minds. But with a story...you engage the audience—you are involving people with the idea, asking them to participate with you.”
So us storytellers always knew that, and tried to convey it to the teachers we gave storytelling workshops to, and here’s a bestselling book (not by a storyteller!) backing us up.
Speaking of stories, it’s not too soon to plan your visit to Kennedy Grove for the 25th Bay Area Storytelling Festival. My friends Dianne Ferlatte and Connie Regan-Blake will be telling. Back in 1975, when she was part of the Folktellers, Connie inspired me to quit my job at the library, as she had, and hit the road as a storyteller. My goodness, thirty-five years ago! A bit later, a visit from the Folktellers inspired us to create the first Bay Area Storytelling Festival. It’s the usual amazing variety, with performance poet Kealoha from Hawaii, epic storyteller Ben Haggerty from the British Isles, and Syd Lieberman rounding out the program with personal stories, Jewish folktales, and historical pieces. Save the weekend of May 22 and 23. I’ll see you there.
NOTE: Arlo Guthrie concert coming up at Zellerbach, Friday April 23. Saw him last time he was there and he gave a great solo performance. We loved it. This time it's a show with his family. Roy Zimmerman, satirical songwriter, is giving a concert the same night at the First Unitarian-Universalist Church of Berkeley (which is actually in Kensington, but they couldn’t say Kensington, think of the acronym!) Decisions, decisions—the problem with living in Berkeley.
©2010 by Nancy Schimmel
Willy Claflin, storyteller, balladeer, puppeteer and goat whisperer, is coming to the Bay Area Storytelling Festival in May. He is the funniest storyteller I have ever heard.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010