When you want evidence of the impact of performance interventions (training, education, mentoring, special projects, etc.), stories are often the most useful and most compelling. Peter Guber, the filmmaker, writes about the business value of storytelling in Harvard Business Review (December 2007, p.53). He writes:
Here is the challenge for the business storyteller: He must enter the hearts of his listeners, where their emotions live, even as the information he seeks to convey rents space in their brains. Our minds are relatively open, but we guard our hearts with zeal, knowing their power to move us. So although the mind may be part of your target, the heart is the bull’s-eye. To reach it, the visionary manager crafting his story must first display his own open heart.
Surveys and quasi-scientific methods that use pre-training and post-training assessments and so-called control (comparison) groups, speak to the mind. In doing so, they have value. But a good story, that begins with the protagonist attending training and ends with our hero doing something that results in an increase in revenue, decrease in costs, greater market share, or a boost in customer satisfaction, is priceless. Rob Brinkerhoff, in his book “Telling Training’s Story” describes a method for collecting these stories. We know managers want numbers. They need the illusion of scientific credibility. That’s fine; they can have those numbers. But what moves people to action are the stories.