A review of the book “Squirrel Inc” by Stephen Denning
For as long as I could remember, serious communication centered around facts and our ability to share them, while stories were designed for the purposes of entertainment. Do you want to make someone laugh? Tell a story! You want to tug on your audience’s heart strings? Nothing does that quite like a story. It has been widely accepted that stories touch the heart while the overwhelming logic of the facts can change the mind. Stephen Denning is trying to change all of that.
Denning, in his book “Telling the Story” addresses the reality that logical arguments are often not as effective as we’d like them to be when it comes to persuading others. As a matter of fact, our hearers often resist logic in favor of their own cherished points of view. The influence so vital to leadership in any organization can be diluted as change is met with unnecessary resistance. The solution, according to the book, is to rely more on the power of stories to communicate the ideas that are to shape the opinions and behavior of others.
And let’s face it. What speaker doesn’t want to do that? From the opening sentence to the closing remarks, what speaker doesn’t have as his or her purpose the influencing of their audience’s perceptions? That being the case, what speaker wouldn’t like to make that task easier? Stories are the way to go. Squirrel Inc is written in story form and is about an organization run by squirrels (Stay with me. You’ll find this powerful if you just give it a chance) who have the challenge of changing the culture of their business. The facts are on their side of those in leadership who want to move in a different direction, nevertheless, they find change difficult and communication with the other squirrels somewhat cumbersome. That is until the leaders turn to stories. The stories in the book are successful for the same reasons the stories in your sermons and speeches will be: Stories tap into and unlock emotions that help to convince us faster than logic can. Simply put, according to the book a logical argument may convince the listener but with a relevant story the listener will convince themselves.
Preachers and speakers often fear the label of “Just telling stories”, and with good reason. Who doesn’t want to be taken seriously? This book, however, removes the stigma of storytelling and presents the science of persuasion associated with the art form. At 153 pages this book is a well-written easy read that is sure to make an impact. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself intentionally using more well-placed illustrations the next time you speak, and don’t be surprised if your audiences praises you for it. After all… It’s always story time!