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Every Sentence is a Sword of Industry

By Kim Palagyi

Language is the first technology of humans. Understanding the significance of language, as well as how to wield it to best interact with your customers is as important to your company as developing new prototypes or using the latest automation software.

Linguists suggest that language is what allowed us to spread across the globe, and become who we are today.

“Language was our secret weapon, and as soon we got language we became a really dangerous species,” said Mark Pagel, a biologist at the University of Reading in England. Fossil records suggest that Neanderthals fell into extinction on every continent after the arrival of modern humans. It is evident that language is our lifeblood.

How to leverage the power of language points to comprehending how our brains work. In basic terms, we understand the meaning of an object in terms of other objects — within chunks of reality to which our brains have assigned specific characteristics. Inside the brain there are no discrete files — rather webs of association that are more strongly or more weakly correlated with each other. What better way to tap into these webs of association than with a story? A narrative that combines emotion, adventure, and compelling characters offers more than a world for the brain to delve within. In fact, it offers a chance to become the story.

When we read an engaging story, our brains literally get lost within it, and the experience is not far from real life. A recent study examined this concept in real time. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon scanned the brains of volunteers as they read Chapter 9 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the scene where Harry and his friends take their first flying lesson) for 45 minutes. The fMRI scans were then analyzed with an algorithm that looked for patterns of brain activity that corresponded with when volunteers read specific words, grammar structures, character’s names, and so forth.

The results yielded that while reading, the brain activated regions perceiving real-world movement and areas involved in imagining others’ thoughts and goals. The synthesis of this research supported what researchers call the “protagonist’s perspective interpreter network” —  or a network of brain regions that enable us to quite literally “become” the protagonist of the story we’re reading.

Most of us already know this and have gotten lost in the countless journeys of Harry, Homer, and heroes and heroines large and small. However, the implications for your business may be even more grandiose than the plight of Harry to defeat Voldemort. Imagine if your customers could insert themselves as heroes within your company’s own story — suddenly your business becomes as enthralling as the latest pageturner.

The ability for your business to influence story as points of sales and evangelism harkens back to how our brains work. We crave language to form bonds and dominate others. We use stories to navigate who we are and make sense of our journeys. Storytelling for your business is not just a buzzword, it’s a tool of the industry that perfectly balances art and science.

Kim Palagyi is an Associate at Woden. Whatever your storytelling needs may be, let Woden help. Download our free StoryBlueprint, or send us an email at connect@wodenworks.com to discuss how we can help tell your story.