A few weeks ago, my daughters asked if I could accompany them to watch “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”, a new animated flick about a very smart dog who had a human son. My experience with animated flicks, even from Dreamworks and Pixar/Disney, is that without a good story, the animation doesn’t really help.
Fortunately as in the case of another film, “Rio”, the film didn’t disappoint, even for a forty-something adult like me. I look forward to accompanying my daughters on future sequels of the animated series. But it did more than that for me. It also rekindled my interest in the Renaissance, one of the themes covered in the film.
Stories live on forever, as in the case of the Bible and its parables, or the fairy tales and fables from Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen, and the Grimm brothers. Such stories are also useful for communicating contemporary serious topics such as climate change and corporate sustainability.
There seems to be a mistaken notion that stories and fictional fables and tales are only for entertainment and non-serious topics. This is not true. A well told fictional story that features well researched facts can be an effective educational tool, not just entertainment. Stories give context that would otherwise not be present with a simple enumeration of facts: Serve the omelette; Break the shell; Beat the egg white and yolk. It may all be true, but it lacks the temporal quality that makes it memorable for readers. Our brains are hard wired for stories. Have any of you forgotten the story of Robin Hood?
Then there are those who are highly educated and support your values - but they may not care about the topic you want to communicate - yet. What do you do? Thrust an academic journal paper on climate change or sustainability into their face? Surely not. You first need to interest them in the topic you most passionately care about.
Stories are perfect for this. You’ve seen this happen everywhere. A book, a film, a play that drew attention to a particular topic that you didn’t care anything about. Reaching the logical cerebral part of the brain may work for some, but for most the process of getting people interested requires reaching both the logical and the emotional - both the mind and the heart.
In this world of social media and the Internet, getting heard above the din requires more than a loud voice. It also requires presenting information and facts in a proper context that everyone can appreciate. The time honoured medium of storytelling serves that purpose well.
Dennis Posadas is the author of Greenergized (UK: Greenleaf, 2013), and a technical consultant for low carbon projects. He is currently working on a new business fable on corporate sustainability.
You may want to follow him on Twitter @dennis_posadas.