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December 2012
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TD Magazine

Victorious Storytelling

Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell—and Live—the Best Stories Will Rule the Future

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By Jonah Sachs

(Harvard Business Review Press, $27, 288 pp.)

Today millions struggle to be heard across a plethora of mediums. Messages are ignored, misunderstood, and muddled. Author Jonah Sachs is right: The story wars are all around us. To break through the multitude of messages and stand out, connect, and inspire others—and thereby win the war—we must become the storytellers and myth makers of our generation.

Winning the Story Wars is divided into two parts: The Broken World of Storytelling and Shaping the Future. The Broken World of Storytelling provides an overview of the current state of affairs shaped by the assumptions of the broadcast era, which shifted the power of storytelling to a few gate holders. This first part also includes a review of the ineffective message campaigns driven by the inadequacy approach—a method that struggles to gain our attention as consumers.

Shaping the Future acts as a tool kit or resource pool for those wanting to tell stories that get noticed amidst the millions of messages sent to consumers. Part two is not a step-by-step guide to producing an effective story, but it gives readers the essential commandments and building blocks to shape their stories and determine what key elements and characters will best relay their messages.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Sachs included three practical application portions to guide readers in their story creation efforts: identify your values, design your core story elements, and generate your stories. These basic training sections help readers to apply lessons learned.

The book is an interesting blend of marketing and advertising history, mythology, and psychology that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. Although not labeled as a marketing book, I would consider this a must-read for those wanting their stories—professional or personal—to be heard in today's complex communication landscape. Normally I tune out marketing books, but this one has earned a place on my bookshelf and a noteworthy position on my leadership development reading list.

I cannot conclude my review without commenting on the eye-catching illustrations of Drew Beam. Beam's artwork combined with Sachs's writing style kept me glued to the pages and earned Winning the Story Wars four café au laits.

50 Digital Team-Building Games: Fast, Fun Meeting Openers, Group Activities and Adventures Using Social Media, Smart Phones, GPS, Tablets, and More

John Chen

(Wiley, $24.95, 200 pp.)

In today's digital world, meaningful team building experiences have become increasingly difficult to achieve. Realizing this, Chen wrote this book to offer group activities and adventures for business teams. These exercises incorporate a range of different technologies and social media, including Twitter, GPS, Facebook, and smartphones. Chen's guide will teach you how to lead a simple, yet engaging team building activity with easy-to-follow instructions, and create successful virtual team building that requires no travel and few additional expenses. This book is ideal for any manager who wants to create a team comfortable with technology, trustful, and embodying a strong culture of communication.

There Is an I in Team: What Elite Athletes and Coaches Really Know About High Performance

Mark de Rond

(Harvard Business Review Press, $30, 208 pp.)

In most workplaces, teams are highly valued. If an individual cannot work well within a team, he is considered toxic and replaceable. In There Is an I in Team, de Rond explores whether the team always should be valued over the individual. The author compares certain business situations with similar scenarios faced by sports teams, exploring assumptions in both arenas and encouraging managers to transfer concepts from the world of extraordinary sports to their experiences in an office environment. This book offers many insights that will inform your understanding of team dynamics and how to deal with high-performing individuals.

50 Top Tools for Coaching: A Complete Toolkit for Developing and Empowering People

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Gillian Jones and Ro Gorell

(Kogan Page, $39.95, 232 pp.)

As the coaching market continues to grow, there becomes a greater need for education resources for the coaching profession. Jones and Gorell set out to fulfill this need with their practical guide, 50 Top Tools for Coaching. The authors write for coaches, managers, leaders, and any individual seeking tools to develop others. Some of these "top tools" include coaching assessments, checklists, action plans, goal setting, and value assessments. The need for the coaching practice to demonstrate credibility and competence is increasing, and this book aims to help professional coaches achieve more with their clients.

What's on Dianna Booher's Bookshelf?

BookShelf

The Bible. I consider scripture a manual for life: daily decision making, human relationships, marriage, parenting, money management, and charity. As for business, the book of Proverbs alone is a foundational course on leadership, management, entrepreneurialism, and communication skills.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. I've recommended this classic on writing nonfiction to legions of would-be authors for both craft and inspiration. It's the kind of book you read several times in a lifetime, recommend over and over, and then pick up and "spot read" again and again to remind yourself of the many tidbits of technique that you've not yet mastered. The author's analysis of his own writing as examples of what works well and not so well demonstrates the objectivity required by masters of almost any art.

On Speaking Well: How to Give a Speech With Style, Substance, and Clarity by Peggy Noonan. Written by a presidential speechwriter and columnist, this classic captures many techniques that business presenters can use to master their craft. But nothing conveys the essence and style of her book better than this paragraph: "Speeches actually have to say things. And great speeches are great because they say great things. Speeches that consist merely of the stringing together of pretty words and pretty sentiments are not great. They never live." Her book builds the case for constructing a persuasive presentation on logic to show respect for serious people.

About the Author

Elizabeth Beckham is safety training manager at Turner Industries Group, LLC.

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