When you go to your next party in which people bring food, alcohol or other contributions, listen for their stories around how they came to decide upon, prepare, purchase or deliver their party contribution. We know stories are important to us but do we really know how important?
The article “Anthropology Inc.” by Graeme Wood (The Atlantic March 2013 edition) and the television show Antiques Roadshow (more) demonstrate that stories dramatically increase our perception of value. In “Waiter Schools Offer Restaurants a Refresher Course” by David Sax (Bloomberg Businessweek, January 16, 2012 edition), Paul Pax, an instructor to waiters and consultant to restaurants, gives this tip, “Telling diners a tale about their dinner elevates the perceived value of their food.”
For example, Wood found that with premium vodka, taste wasn’t the purchasing driver but rather the story behind it. Sometimes the purchaser creates the story as suggested above. Other times it’s a retelling of the story created by the vodka’s maker, thus emphasizing the importance of branding, the feeling or story we create behind our products and services. As we saw, stories not only increase value indirectly via perceptions but directly by enhancing taste.
Of course, it’s difficult to measure any story’s true power. That is why Wood talks about anthropologists using methodologies that they apply to aborigines at modern humans’ events. It’s also why many of us don’t grasp stories’ real power: unless it’s quantifiable we don’t know how to value it even though it might be very obvious intuitively.
Thus, storytelling can increase the value of our companies, work, professions, services, products, employees and even our relationships. What stories do we want to emphasize? Do we have stories, narratives worked into our marketing plans, our communication plans?
Finally, and most importantly, what is your story?