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    Tuesday
    Apr162013

    Storytelling: Academia Get On Board

    “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today,” says Robert McKee, USC professor of screenwriting who developed the widely acclaimed Story Seminar.

    Courtesy Newton garfitti under Creative CommonsResearch is bearing out the truth of his assertion. Annie Murphy Paul in a New York Times article Your Brain on Fiction reported on scientific studies using the latest techniques in brain imaging. Paul says, “Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life…The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.”

    Journalists have recognized the importance of narrative, as an increasing number of reporters have embraced the tools of creative nonfiction, particularly in long form pieces. So have business leaders and politicians.

    The monograph, however, has remained the dominant form in the academic world. It was well researched, solidly factual, objective, fully documented, and usually dull reading.

    That may be changing. Dr. Ricardo Azziz, President of Georgia Regents University in Augusta, in a recent Huffington Post article, The Critical Art of Storytelling, explains why it should.

    •  “The art of storytelling is essential for educators as we bear the responsibility of seeding a hunger for knowledge, igniting fires in the minds of our students…”
    • “For researchers, storytelling involves translating the complexities of scientific inquiry into something journal and grant reviewers, funding agencies, government officials, and the public in general can get excited about.”
    • “Storytelling is also important for those of us who are clinicians, because we become better care providers if we learn to understand the narratives of our patients, their families, and the illnesses and needs they have. Our re-telling of their stories inspires hope -- even within ourselves as we shepherd the people we care for through challenging... and sometimes hopeless... times.”
    • “…storytelling is critically important for leaders. Because, first and foremost, leaders are in the business of selling. We are selling a vision, a project, a dream, a place, a need. We are selling a better and brighter future. ”

    In each case the power of narrative to engage a wider audience in a deeper way conveys important ideas more successfully than a strictly dispassionate recitation of facts and data.

    “Remember, logic and reason live on the left side of the brain,” said Azziz. “That's the side of our grey matter that loves scatter plots and financial statements. But emotion? It lives on the ride side of the brain, and people are moved by it…”

    Azziz’s advice to his academic colleagues, “The critical art of storytelling…[is] not to be underestimated.”

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