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September 1st, 2013

This morning, my daughter was talking about a favorite book of hers from several years ago that she re-discovered last night. Between then and this morning, she had read all 390-pages and loved every moment of it.

The book is called SKULLDUGGERY PLEASANT, a fantasy novel about a combination of an undead sorcerer and a detective. (The Irish heritage of the author would appeal to me, but that’s neither here nor there.)

But, this is more than rediscovering a beloved book. My daughter had a presentation due for school, and she found in her re-reading just the elements she needed. In short, a project that had been trekking along a rocky road had suddenly opened with possibilities.

Suffice it to say that SKULLDUGGERY PLEASANT is unlikely to be found on any honors program reading list. Those types of seemingly mildly diverting time-passers are more equated with junk food for the mind with no relevance to the important scholastic topics at hand.

Yet, my daughter made a connection…and with that connection came an enthusiasm for the project. A chore became more enjoyable, and a lifeless report was infused with passion.

This insight has important ramifications for corporate storytelling. How often do we discard potentially relevant stories that we’ve enjoyed when faced with presentations in the corporate world because…well, they just won’t be accepted as having merit?

Let’s think about that for a moment. One of the delightful attributes of effective storytelling is illustrating topics or concepts in a way that brings them alive for audiences. The stories make them easier to understand because we now have a readily remembered example to bring to mind when considering them.

My daughter’s undead sorcerer may not be the stuff of honors readings, but his unusual adventures are easy to follow and will be readily called to mind when an illustration is needed.

Which leads me to a personal favorite of mine…Godzilla.

American viewers associate Godzilla with the 1955 dubbed and re-edited version called GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, complete with added scenes of Raymond Burr as a friendly, familiar face explaining the happenings in a non-threatening manner. It was this film, along with others in the series, which created the image in American minds of a man dressed in a rubber monster suit stomping on model buildings.

Now, I need to say up front that I enjoy the American version. Compared to other retreads of Japanese films of the period, this one was much more respectful of the original content.

However, the original is an entirely different viewing experience. Released in Japan a year earlier, GOJIRA took its home country by storm, literally becoming a blockbuster that audiences waited in line for extended periods of time to view.

How is this possible? Is the Japanese taste in entertainment so much less refined than ours?

No, not at all. GOJIRA, in its original form, is an engrossing story of the cost of human arrogance and the price we pay when we push honor to the background. The gigantic monster that comes ashore to level Tokyo may be the embodiment of the Japanese souls lost in the war. An argument in support of this (cut from the American version) is when GOJIRA turns his back on the Emperor’s palace, showing contempt for the decisions that resulted in so much loss of life.

That’s quite a bit different from the ridiculous image of a man in a rubber suit stomping through a model city.

I’ve used GODZILLA as an example in a number of corporate presentations. The most recent was an illustration to leaders of how our misunderstanding of the value of some incidents to others leads to our failure to provide meaningful leadership. For instance, an event that I would brush away as something easily handled in my life may be a nerve-wracking experience for someone else, influencing their behavior in ways that I don’t understand.

In other words, seeing the man in the rubber monster suit causes me to miss the far more important message that is governing behavior.

It is always a pleasure when an attendee tells me afterward, “You know, I had no idea where you were going with this, but you’ve really started me thinking.” Or, just as enjoyable is, “I’m going to have to rent GOJIRA.”

Stories that we have found to be personally enjoyable usually carry messages that speak to the person who we really are deep inside. They have power because they help us to understand ourselves a little better, and to reflect on what they have to say about life.

Don’t be ashamed to share those stories. Uncover why they have remained important to you, and bring that discovery to others. You will find that they bring illumination to many darkened solutions.

Thank you for reading.