Why Storytelling is a Powerful Business Skill

By Somali K Chakrabarti

I am not an avid TV watcher, but often when I do, a remarkable advertisement ‘Will of Steel’ never fails to catch my eyes.

This advertisement shows a girl, in a village in Haryana, getting up in the morning, putting on her shoes, and going out for a run, followed by practising crunches and weight lifting. Another lady in the house is shown lighting incense sticks, sweeping the house, washing clothes and preparing food.

Geeta Phogat - Will of Steel
Will of Steel


A background commentary in rustic Haryanvi language sermons the duties of a woman.

A woman must get up before the sunrise, offer prayers and get into the kitchen to get on with the household chores.

Woman are not meant to be wrestlers. Sports and wrestling need lot of strength and courage and should be left to men. A woman cannot defend herself, leave aside competing in wrestling. One must be born a man to be a wrestler. A woman, who breaks the taboo, and steps out of home will suffer and bring nothing but shame upon the family.

As this commentary goes on, a sprightly Geeta Phogat is first showing defeating a well-built young man in the wrestling arena in a local wrestling game. She, then proceeds to defeat an Australian woman player (Emily Bensted) to win India’s first ever gold medal in women’s wrestling in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Will of Steel
Geeta Phogat – Will of Steel


The advertisement hits you on the face.

That’s the irresistible power of storytelling!

The Will of Steel commercial by JSW Steel is a classic example of the application of storytelling technique in business context. It shows how the alluring power of stories can be used to convey what the business stands for.


Stories feel real

Long before people had invented probability theory, risk assessment, and decision analysis, there was intuition, instinct, and gut feeling. A well-told story appeals to our intuitive mind, as it captures our attention by accentuating emotions, and thus making it easier for us to follow through without the loss of interest.

An identified individual, with a face and a name, can elicit much more compassion than any amount of statistics can. You can quickly sense the feelings associated with the scenes or the words (like “joy” or “hate”), relate to the feelings and can identify yourself with the characters, the situation or the surroundings.


Numbers may Numb Us

In contrast, the numerical representations of human lives do not necessarily convey the importance of those lives.

 Information is cheap, meaning is expensive. – George Dyson [Tweet this]

Dry statistics do not trigger the feelings associated with an event and may have a numbing effect on us.  No matter how large the numbers, data fails to convey the true pathos or spark emotion or feeling and thus fails to motivate action.


Stories inspire actions

A story makes it easier for us to visualize how things would have unfolded; what circumstances, motivations or compulsions would have made people to act in certain ways. When a story fires your imagination and stirs your soul, you follow in rapt attention.

Stories are needed to galvanize public opinion and are essential for establishing the emotional connection necessary to motivate donations.

 If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the individual I will. ~Mother Teresa  [Tweet this]

You will be more moved when you come to know about the struggle or plight of one particular person (or for that matter even an animal) than when you hear about the misery of hundreds of fellow humans.

Research shows that people are much more willing to aid identified individuals than unidentified or statistical victims. People, when they are asked to donate money to aid an identified cancer victim, tend to contribute much more than those who are asked to donate to save millions of people from cancer. Statistical realities lessen contribution as they reduce the donor’s attention to the individual.


Use of Storyboards in business 

In business storyboards are used to detail out process flows and visually depict different scenarios. Through the illustration of activities, actors and the dependency between activities, storyboards can help in streamlining processes, identifying and eliminate non-value-added activities and costs and improving customer experiences.

Storyboards are used to facilitate the introduction of a quality improvement process into an organisation. Storyboards are also used in accounting in the ABC System (Activity Based Costing System). While creating software applications, storyboarding is often used during client presentations, as they help users to understand exactly how the software will work, which is much better than an abstract description. Thus storyboards help in building credibility and creating buy in.

Filmmakers, animators and advertising agencies, and even novelists use storyboarding for plotting the sequence of events and rearranging the scenes wherever needed.

The process of visual thinking and planning allows people to experiment with changes in the story-line to evoke stronger reaction or interest.

By sharing stories that can inspire or move the audience, businesses and leaders can get across ideas or concepts in a manner that numbers can never do.

Cognitive psychology has shown that the mind best understands facts when they are woven into a conceptual fabric, such as a narrative, mental map, or intuitive theory. Disconnected facts in the mind are like un-linked pages on the Web: They might as well not exist. ~ Steven Pinker



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Psychic Numbing and Mass Atrocity, Paul Slovic, David Zionts, Andrew K. Woods, Ryan Goodman, and Derek Jinkse


29 thoughts on “Why Storytelling is a Powerful Business Skill

    1. Thanks for sharing your views. Data at times can point out very crucial patterns that we may otherwise miss. But a lot of assimilation of the message by our brain depends on how it is presented. Hence the significance of storytelling.


  1. Good write-up definitely its a crucialskill , sometimes facts and numbers fail to achieve the same attention like a powerful story- line does……….all business cases are should have a compelling story- line since attractive numbers sometimes fail to achieve the magic with stakeholders

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good stories appeal to the mind more than factual reports based on hard statistics to convey important messages . Developing the skills of good story telling should form a crucial part of the conceptual skills of the business leaders .Congratulations for your excellent blog .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes Somali, you are right. Emotions play a big role in how consumer operate. Emotions drive our decisions. To study the effect of advertisements on consumer and their emotions big business houses and ad agencies invest lots of money. This is also true that dry statistics do not trigger feelings . There are lots of ads to name or mention here which strike a chord with common people. Some of them are excellent example of storytelling. For example, Daddy and Zooey in Tata AIA life and HDFC life : Apne parivar ko apne dum par jeena sikhao.
    Good post Somali ..


  4. If difficult subjects are also turned into interesting stories, it will probably be easier to comprehend, particularly at school level. This blog made a very interesting reading.

    Liked by 1 person

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