Start with the End

Issue 005. By Patrick Thomas.

Welcome to The Story is the Strategy, a weekly newsletter about becoming a world-class business communicator. My mission is to help you become a remarkable storyteller and significantly increase your professional impact. Learn more here.

Ideas to Improve Your Storytelling

Idea #1: Incentives Matter. “Let’s say you could only teach two words to everyone. What would the two words be? My candidate would be: incentives matter.” - Tyler Cowen in this handy five minute introduction to the concept.

Why is this relevant to business storytelling? Because people are always responding to incentives. If understood and designed properly, they can help motivate the actions that you want your audience to take. If ignored, you risk shortchanging your own communication efforts, since other incentives outside your control exist. I can’t think of a more fundamental concept for any storyteller to master.

Idea #2: Learn the Big Concepts. So incentives is one of the big ideas of economics. Just as evolution is one of the big ideas of biology. Regression to the mean is one of the big ideas of statistics. And biases are a major concept in psychology. And so on.

Oftentimes, these cornerstone concepts in a given field are highly generalizable and will equip you with a new way of thinking about the world. And thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to quickly learn the major concepts of various disciplines. Some people call these mental models, and they compound. The more of them you understand, the more effective you’ll be as a communicator.

I’ll cover the ones I find especially useful and relevant, but the whole internet is at your fingertips, too!

(Image courtesy of audiencestack.)

Put it to Work

Start with the End in Mind. Before you create a presentation, write a memo, or give a talk, be sure that you have a crystal clear understanding of what you want to achieve.

The preferred outcome will change the rest of what you say because of what we just learned about incentives. For example, if your objective is to get a group of leaders to make a decision about something, you might begin by highlighting the costs of inaction or the benefits of deciding now. This creates an incentive to act and helps counteract status quo bias.

When we’re not super clear about what we’re trying to achieve, the default often becomes “let me show people how much I know about this topic so they don’t think I’m dumb.” Mediocre communication meanders. Crisp communication gets to the point.

Start with the end in mind. This is so obvious, and yet most people don’t do it. So make sure you do.

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