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Business Consultant Claims the 'Best Story Wins'

Business consultant Morgan Housel claims that the best arguments seldom win the day; it’s the best story that changes minds and hearts. Housel writes:

A truth that applies to many fields, which can frustrate some as much as it energizes others, is that the person who tells the most compelling story wins. Not who has the best idea, or the right answer ...

[For example], the Civil War is probably the most well-documented period in American history. There are thousands of books analyzing every conceivable angle, chronicling every possible detail. But in 1990 Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary became an instant phenomenon, with 39 million viewers and winning 40 major film awards. As many Americans watched Ken Burns’ Civil War in 1990 as watched the Super Bowl that year. And all he did – not to minimize it, because it’s such a feat – is take 130-year-old existing information and wove it into a (very) good story.

It's the same for writer Bill Bryson. His books fly off the shelves, which I understand drives the little-known academics who uncovered the things he writes about crazy. His latest work is basically an anatomy textbook. It has no new information, no discoveries. But it’s so well written – he tells such a good story – that it became an instant bestseller.

This drives you crazy if you assume the world is swayed by facts and objectivity – if you assume the best idea wins … The novelist Richard Powers summarized it this way: “The best arguments in the world won’t change a single person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”

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