Be More Effective Through Storytelling

New Scientist cites Chao Lu of China, who was able to recite 67,890 digits of pi from memory in 2005, making him a world memory champion. I found the method used by memory champions interesting:

Many of them use a mnemonic method. Before starting to memorize a number, they associate a person or object with each four-digit number from 0000 to 9999. The digits of pi can then be translated into a sequence of these people and objects, which the memoriser links by making up a story. This helps add interest to the random sequence of numbers and pegs down the memory.

The power of storytelling and narratives is not a new discovery. Marketers have long known the power of narratives, and have been backing up those assertions with hard science. And long before mass marketers existed, cavemen relied on narratives to share and pass along to generations critical information for survival. Memory champions’ use of storytelling, even applied to one’s self, is yet another reinforcement of how important narratives are to the performance of our brains and our human race.

Which makes me wonder: If storytelling is so fundamental to humanity’s performance, then how come the art, science and practical application of storytelling isn’t more stressed in childrearing, education and work? It remains a subtle backdrop, yet incredibly influential in all that we do (or don’t do). Storytelling should not be limited to Hollywood, literary fiction and creative writing classes. Storytelling is inextricably linked to effectiveness, so it should be prioritized and nurtured as such.

(Photo credit: blythe_d)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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  1. I preach storytelling to my teams. You can take a complex problem and easily have anyone understand. Also, the best story tellers are the best presenters

  2. Max, the monks who memorized entire tomes in the Middle Ages used mnemotic methods, but ones based more on design than narrative. They built enormous buildings in their mind and distributed what they were memorizing into different rooms. So you might say that education should also feature design. Of course, I find a bit of irony in your post, because with the electronic computing we now have on hand, the value of memorizing itself is debatable. It may be useful only as a form of exercise–the mental stairmaster–and not education.

  3. I agree with you on design. On memory, wouldn't better memory make one
    more equipped to interpret and manipulate more complex problems,
    including programming computers?

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