One of the most useful ways you can use stories in a business or personal context is to overcome peoples fear of change.
In the context of change we can identify three stages.
1) The current situation
2) The change process
3) The desired end result.
Both the change process and the end result can be a source of fear.
People generally are more often than not, change averse. We are “homeostasis” machines, that is from the cellular level upwards, we are designed to maintain our current state .. as long as that is generally beneficial for our survival.
The trouble is, often, people get “stuck in their ways” and find it difficult to summon up the energy needed to move, even if that new place will be better for them.
One of the ways we can help this is through the use of metaphor and story.
The trick here, is to find a situation that is “the same as” the process of change your audience will be going through, that is already familiar to them.
Peter Gubber in his article in the Harvard Business Review, “Using Stories to Overcome Fear” give an example from his days as CEO of Sony Pictures. In those days cinemas typically just had one screen. He believed that there was a market for Multiplexes but the additional investment involved in building these was a huge disincentive at the time.
He choose to compare the cinema experience with the dining out experience. If I traditional cinema was like a restuarant, then a multiplex would be like a food court (a place where there are lots of restaurants around a central seating area). Because people were already familiar with food courts they could immediately carry over their familiarity with the benefits and opportunities that these provided.
The result, as you will have noticed, is that now, multiplexes are everywhere. Who would have guessed that all of those came about because one guy told a simple story.