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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E64. Do Your Stories Need Structure? with Andrés Oliveros



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Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.


Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is resolute heroes, and dress is the co founder of astrolabe, a firm that has the objective of impacting millions through behavioural design. They craft change, communication and learning experiences to influence behaviours and create new habits. Since its foundation in 2011, astrolabe has worked with 100 of the 500 biggest companies in Mexico, including giants like Walmart, Heineken and Home Depot. Undress, also used to think he was a coward, because he didn't study communications like he wanted and became a lawyer instead. Now, I think that's hilarious because I did just about the opposite. I was too afraid or failing or failing the university exams for a real profession, like law or medicine. So I went for communication, and I can confidently tell Andrés that he didn't miss a thing. Ladies and gentlemen, Andrés Oliveros.


Andrés, Welcome to the show.


Andrés Oliveros 2:02

Hello, Francisco. That was a great introduction. Thanks for the invitation. I must also admit and dress that I am very jealous of you, because I could be jealous for many things, but I'm jealous about one thing in particular, that but no, your background is lovely. That that's not it wasn't that I was jealous of that. Okay. The reason I'm jealous of you is because you had the chance to learn from the godfather of business storytelling, and I have not had that chance. So I'm sure you know exactly who I'm talking about. Right. I kissed I kissed Sean Callaghan's hand 10 years ago, I think the expression is you kiss the ring. But you know, if you want to kiss the head, I think that's


Francisco Mahfuz 2:44

so so what happened? What happened with me is that I came across Shawn, after I had already started doing this, which is probably a good thing, because I completely by myself came up with the name story powers for my for my business and my podcast. And if I had come across anecdote before, I wouldn't have been able to do that with a straight face because they actually trademarked story powered communication. But what happened was, I wasn't the same storytelling conference that he was. So we I watched him speak, he watched me speak, I had him on the podcast, we got on really well. We actually talked for a while about me doing some work with with them. And that didn't end up happening. And then he had one of the leadership courses coming up. And I was about to sign up for it. And then I just dropped him Alliance at Shawn. I would love to do this thing. Obviously, I'm going to pay for it normally. But I do realise that since I'm not working with you, we are kind of competition like, I will never, it will never make a difference to you. But we are still in competition. So is that okay? And he said, Well, actually, we try to make a point of not training the competition. I hope that's all right. And, of course, you're well within your rights. But that wasn't your case. Right? You met him before you started the storytelling thing.


Andrés Oliveros 4:05

Yeah, this was pre Genesis. We I was working as a corporate lawyer in a boring retail store, retail chain store. And I was really fed up with the culture, corporate culture. And with a friend we just started like googling stuff about how to be like, I don't know, help leaders become a little bit more inspiring, right? And we came across a profile of anecdote I'm talking about this was July 2011, which it's almost 10 years from now. Lots of stuff have happened. And we discovered that he was we were just out of college, my partner and I my business partner and I sorry. And we saw that they were going to give a workshop in New York and we were like, broke like dead broke. So we basically wrote him an email, I still have that email which is very shameful because it's like this one. At least zero storytelling. And we did these like third world landing like in a developing country request for for yeah like for a discount and he accepted so my friend and I we flew to New York, we stay for the first time in an Airbnb that was September 2011. And we absolutely fell in love with I can't say Shawn, but with his with his storytelling prowess and all his vision.


Francisco Mahfuz 5:32

He's a big lovable bear. I think it's it's easy to fall in love with him. But you know, it's the whole the whole crew over there. They're all very good mark amazing and and roll now and all those guys. So yeah, so I still learn a tonne from him. I think his book is one of the best ones out there for for business storytelling this and I consume their material feverishly. But I would have loved to see them in action in in a workshop. But I fully understand why does this make sense? And he was so apologetic about it. I really hope this doesn't sour our relationship? Of course not.


Andrés Oliveros 6:12

Yeah, he has been amazing. So you've


Francisco Mahfuz 6:14

been you've been doing this now for, as you said almost 10 years. And I'm going to get into a lot of the the actual content you guys developed throughout that time. But the first thing I wanted you to the Chris question I wanted you to answer. And this is something I got the other day and I have my answer for this. But I had I had a friend telling me something that someone else echoed a few days later, which was aren't you focusing too narrowly on this storytelling thing? Because storytelling is because I think they come more from the presentation skills type of world where it's like most storytelling is a part of it. If you're going to teach people how to become better presenters, storytelling is a part of it. So if your focus is storytelling, are into just focus on one piece of the puzzle, and not everything else, whereas someone that supposedly teaches presentation skills is going to teach storytelling as well. So So what is your answer to that? to that person?


Andrés Oliveros 7:11

So it for the first six or seven years of astrolabes as ravizza is the name of the firm that I co founded on 2011. Just like basically one day, after getting from Sean's workshop, we were like, Okay, we have to put a competition. I mean, we're we already in extreme balls of the world. So they shouldn't didn't matter. And actually, they've been in I think


Francisco Mahfuz 7:34

it matters a little more now.


Andrés Oliveros 7:36

Yeah, maybe now. But in that moment, Shawn became our mentor for the first years. And eventually we became like friends, and we are now we are certified anecdotes, partners. So we did some of their workshops. But yeah, for the first seven years, I think Francisco we did focus 100% Just on the storytelling part of the presentation skills. In the last few years, we have been pivoting a little bit. So first, we started covering the risk more than just storytelling. So maybe that's like, an boring for this podcast. But that's what we do. And then we kind of jump even further. And now we're doing these like behavioural design. That's how we sell ourselves. Because we discovered I just had a call with Sean Callahan, maybe two weeks ago, and I told him about this, like PayPal thing for mass lab in which we are not only focused on storytelling, nor presentation or communication, but we're trying to make things work, improve things work in leaner, corporate corporate culture, sorry. And we're doing this like we kind of came with, it dawned on us that we were in the intersection between behavioural sciences and design. So storytelling is just one of the tools that we're using right now. But there are some others like design thinking, or like, influence intervention in which we try to make things happen. We like kind of influencers and some other tools. But then right now, storytelling is just one tool. But I think that's that's not i regression, I think for us, is pudding storytelling context, storytelling is about changing behaviour, or it is about nothing. So that's like our main focus when we talk about storytelling is if you do not change the behaviour, that like your storytelling is futile. I wanted to use that word.


Francisco Mahfuz 9:30

Yes, it's a great word. So I don't I don't think that we are talking about different things. Because one thing is, so I heard this expression. I love it. And I actually credited it. This is from Endian recast was a storytelling keynote speaker and he, he says, people get very confused about the aeroplane and the destination. So you sell someone on a holiday, you sell the destination, I'm going to Cancun. I'm going to you know, whatever the beautiful place in Mexico is that doesn't come to mind right now. You don't say listen this great Today we're going to go in the aeroplane is amazing. Like the aeroplane is so comfortable. Like, where are we going? No, sir in storytelling, as much as we love it for the vast majority of of scenarios that you could use it. It's not it's the aeroplane is not the destination. I think even if all you doing is telling stories to your friends and family, it's still the aeroplane the destination is more human connection is inspiration. So I don't think that if you're focusing on change behaviour, or strategy, which is something I know anecdote does a lot as well, you are still, you know, that's the destination, the tool you're going to use at least one of the important tools is storytelling. So so no, I don't think I don't think I think storytelling by you can sell storytelling on on its own, like storytelling for what? So okay, so I've answered the question for you. But my question is, when you were talking to companies before, before you had done all this work before you had all this name on the market, if a company approached you or you approach the company, how much were you selling the storytelling angle? And how much were you selling the other angle?


Andrés Oliveros 11:09

Now, it wasn't that easy, Francisco. I mean, for the first five years, one of the tag lines that we use was something like, we are the first story or old business storytelling firm in Mexico, and people were no one cared. That's good. That's That's amazing. Guy. That's great.


Francisco Mahfuz 11:26

You got the word Oral, in your business description. Yeah.


Andrés Oliveros 11:32

Yeah, and right now, I mean, just just to answer that question, Francisco, I think a couple of examples that two topics that I have been really passionate about in the last three months, two months, three ones, is the neuroscience of emotions. So I've been we're doing this big programme for a bank. And they asked us to teach like the the newest science, the most new science, how do you say that? Like, yeah, like the most recent science on emotions, okay. For a couple of leaders, the late


Francisco Mahfuz 11:59

and late the latest science, the


Andrés Oliveros 12:02

latest, their latest science? Yeah. Okay, so, so we discovered this, these movements about the Affective Neuroscience, and it's about this lady Lisa Feldman Barrett, which I believe she's like, amazing. I mean, for me right now, she's like, in the same level at Daniel Kahneman on understanding human behaviour anyways. So I've been studying emotions like this, the origin of emotions in the brain for the last two months. And I think that that connects 100% on storytelling. Because what her theory is, which is she goes said, the theory of constructed emotion is that emotions are predictions that help us regulate our body budget, it connects a lot with storytelling, because with storytelling, you try to make like, make people feel to stuff. Okay. So that's one thing that I that it connects directly with storytelling. And the other is I've been studying also network science. So that there's this great book, which is called I think it's it's change, how to make big things happen about a guy named Amundsen taller. He's been studying networks for like 20 years. And he has these great distinction about how ideas spread. So he says, when an idea is just about awareness and information, yeah, ideas spread like a virus. But when ideas require a change of mindset, a change of behaviour, or a change of social norms, you need something totally different. And that's where oral or written makes a lot of sense. Because people when you need them to change something for good. It's not just with a meme or tweeting something, you need to really get into their, their mental wiring and change things. And stories are great for that. Because you can, I mean, people emulate and imitate what others are doing. But also stories are a vehicle of doing that type of things. So again, when I read stuff, then I come back, for example, I just also finish think, again, from Adam Grant. And again, I'm always thinking about how can storytelling, like how can the things that I'm reading can improve my storytelling practice? And the other way around? How can I? How can the things that I know about storytelling, can I help the things I can help my clients in other projects that are not necessarily about storytelling, so I like the example about the aeroplane the destination. And I'm always trying to do connections between like the detail the concrete, and maybe the more abstract.


Francisco Mahfuz 14:28

I've started describing stories to people in this way, I said, in a business context. So we're not talking about fiction, as the story is a real life example that you use to make a point. That's it. So if you're trying to make a point, you're going to look for a real life example. I struggle to think of any type of communication where a real life example to make a point is not something you should be using. And in that sense, it's just, it's just more effective. Communication. Of course, there's plenty of other things you need to go into it. But as long as you keep in mind that our story is a real life example, what are you doing that? What are you trying to communicate? What are you trying to affect? That we have no examples in it. And sure, there's plenty of nuance to that. But I know some of the work that that you do and, and a lot of other people do is storytelling is strategy. And the biggest problem there is people have a strategy that is, is the 30,000 foot view, all the way up there. And there's too far away from the human beings that are going to be affected or whose lives are going to be improved. So it's lacking real life examples. So So yeah, I don't think there's any disagreement there. I think you just pushed it to you selling the destination, you're not selling the aeroplane. That's, that's essentially,


Andrés Oliveros 15:52

I was listening to an episode of a podcast yesterday, Francisco with which I would really wanted to recommend to you and it's about this guy. It's a podcast called The podcast is called Hidden brain. Have you come across that podcast? Yes.


Francisco Mahfuz 16:07

Yeah, it's a pretty well known podcast in the UK, I think I can remember that it was from Yeah, it's an Indian guy. Who is the host, right?


Andrés Oliveros 16:14

Well, it's amazing. Anyways, I just heard I heard the episode called one hand to brains. And he made this he interviewed a guy who, which name is iron Sunday, or I can remember. And he spoke about what the latest science on like the division of the brain hemispheres, is telling us about how each of those hemispheres work. And it's not about what they do, but it's more important, how do they do stuff? So I don't, I don't want to go into details. But what this guy says, which has been studying neuroscience for like, 30 years, I always say 30 years, because 30 years is like something like makes you credible about whatever, right? So he says that the left brain is specialised in the details in like he, the left brain is always thinking about the details and like the specific like the moment, and then the left the right brain, sorry, is thinking a little bit more about the context, the big picture. Okay, so about you were saying about the strategy, the 35,000 foot and the details. I have when I was listening to that podcast yesterday, I had this revelation that the two most like the two storytelling tools that we most focus on is one like the personal anecdotes, or the examples, which I learned from from Sean, which is focus on details, and then narrow the narratives. This is the most difficult word I can like.


Francisco Mahfuz 17:46

Perhaps it's perhaps not a great business choice. That's one of your most important to work with companies called the narrative.


Andrés Oliveros 17:55

Well, I mean, we work like 98% of our work with Latin American companies. So I don't have a narrative. I'm not a diva, which have these strong, like strong,


Francisco Mahfuz 18:06

you can try to pull that off in English, you can say, we're not going to work in the narrative. And they go, Wow, I get it. That Latin flavour is a company that is well,


Andrés Oliveros 18:15

we are doing some projects in Texas and a friend of mine, he lives in Canada, he has this practice of change management, he told me do not improve your English, like, keep your lousy English that's that's that is not like liability. That's some that's a string. I am not sure if I want to agree with him. But anyways, this narrative is about like this, that gives you context. So we the humans that like the greatest leaders, they play in these two, both hemispheres. They're they're telling personal anecdotes, but when they need to tell a story about the vision or about the strategy. Maybe they can do some examples where they're going to use maybe this narrative in which they give people context. When this narrative is something that we we learn from Sean but we have been evolving it. They call it strategic story, we call it narrative it I think they're very different if you if you look them in paper, but I think that the objective is kind of the same to give context to people when promoting a change. So it's both of them, you have to know how to tell about something that happened yesterday. For example, two days ago, I had an accident. And there's this product, I don't know what it is called in in England, but it's like very, very strong glue. I call a locker which is like,


Francisco Mahfuz 19:32

called krazy glue in Spain in Mexico. Well, yeah. In Brazil, it's I think it's bonder is the is the nice


Andrés Oliveros 19:43

like in Polish stuff and they're going to be like there for life. Okay, so just two days ago, I was trying to do some work in my house, and I bought one of those stuff. And I you have to put like this metal needle into so that he could started working, and I broke it, and it spilled on my eyes. So I was like blind and I was thinking about, Okay, I'm not going to watch my son's again. And like I was having this stuff, like, into my head, because, and I get into this frenzy of washing my eyes because I really thought that I was going to get blind. Fortunately, nothing happened. I spoke to a doctor and and things were I still have some parts of this blue in like my face. Anyways. So that is like, I know, I didn't tell it like correctly. But that's like the small, smallest anecdote that you have. The leaders need to learn, but they also need to learn those narratives that can help them communicate important stuff.


Francisco Mahfuz 20:43

So the element i see i saw you add to what I had been familiar with from from anecdotes work is this idea of the of the axis of time and abstraction, I think is how you call it so time is fairly straightforward. You're going from the past to the, to the present, I I use a very similar structure that but not just for that I've, I'd say to people, you know, before and after, because every story is about change. So you have before, but so and after. And that's just the time from the past, to the present or to the future if it's not happened yet, but what I think you added was this idea of abstraction. So can you just explain that that x is your


Andrés Oliveros 21:27

so in my in my in my nighttime, I am a passionate journalist reader. I didn't came across correctly. I love journalism, long pieces of journalism. I read a lot of I have my New Yorker subscription. I read the Atlantic, so I love nonfiction. I only I only read nonfiction not only related to behavioural design,


Francisco Mahfuz 21:49

what you just described as you read super liberal journalism versus


Andrés Oliveros 21:54

Okay, okay. Yeah, that makes sense. So anyways, there's this there's this tool in narrative journalism, which is called the ladder of abstraction. Ladder of abstraction. Ladder results are word that I am not comfortable deducing stuff,


Francisco Mahfuz 22:08

I'm gonna tell you something that if you don't know, this is gonna change your life. We think our accent is horrible, right? So I'm from Brazil. I don't sound like an English person or an American person. You're from Mexico. But the truth is, anyone outside of this country is listening to us actually thinks this is like sexy or something. I have people on social media telling me oh, what can I put videos out all the time? Like, I really love your accent. It's great. How do I get your accent? And I said, I don't know. Listen to bad English all your life and think you have no accent until you get to your 30s apologise.


Andrés Oliveros 22:48

Yeah, okay. Sorry, friends. He's got so yeah, this this concept of ladder of abstraction has been with me for the last five years. And I wanted to when I learned this, the strategic story from anecdote, guys, I think that something that I was missing was, and I have never spoke to Shawn directly about this. So there's going to be like, like a coming out story.


Francisco Mahfuz 23:11

position now down addresses, talking smack about you.


Andrés Oliveros 23:15

So I think that there was there was something a missing link between the stories that like anecdote personal story, and strategic story, that was my view. And when I discovered this ladder of construction that made everything like it made sense, because it brings continuum to this theory in which Yeah, I mean, if you if you map all storytelling tools in two axes, in which you have the abstraction axes, which you have the stories about large group of people about, like something that happened in in like, a lot of years, or maybe a lot of days, you that story is more abstract, okay. And then you have the most concrete abstract, sorry, the most concrete example, which is when you buy this glue, and it's closing your eyes. Okay, so you have that okay, storage.


Francisco Mahfuz 24:04

Just make sure we haven't lost anyone along the way. So I don't know, abstraction is undress with glues, glue exploding krazy glue in his face. A lot of abstraction is the you know, the the stupidity of the human race. That's as much abstraction as you're going to have on that subject. Or the dangers of industrialised products.


Andrés Oliveros 24:28

That's amazing. Yeah, of course, and you could talk all the way back from the to the Industrial Revolution. And then like all the liability suits, and anyways, yeah, do you put it correctly? Francisco so that's what axes okay. You have stories that be very abstract, or we know structural, but then you also have the, the axis of time in which some stories are about the distant past about the recent past, or something that happened yesterday, about something that is happening right now something that you want to happen tomorrow. or How do things look in the future? Okay, but that's not it, I think there's two more elements. So the next element is, we call it like the breaking point in which a story to be really, really relevant, you have to be something that it's novel, okay, that you have to have novelty in that story, or in that narrative. Okay, I pronounce it great. So you have to do this breaking point, that breaking point makes makes it interesting. Okay, and makes the audience curious. And the other thing is that you can move in the apps in the abstraction axes. And that I think that is the secret. Okay, so you can be telling these abstract story about the origin of epidemiology in the world. And like or COVID pandemic, how two years ago, whatever. And then you could tell some specific sample that that is something Shawn and anecdote guys do. But it's not like different it's like the same. It's the same vehicle the same big the story then vehicle. And with that, I think we that abstraction axis and that time axis, I think it solves the question on in that like graphic, you can put all F like all storytelling, real storytelling tools. And I think that I have, it's a theory that we are still developing. But I think that it could be a way of explaining how do these two different tools like personal anecdotes and narratives can fit together in the same theory.


Francisco Mahfuz 26:28

So I hadn't come across the the ladder of abstraction. And the first time I actually saw that that word in your material, it rang a bit strange to me, because I haven't come across that before. But the way I have explained that is, I think very similar, but I use completely different terms. Perhaps I picked a term that is a bit more in the zeitgeist. Now, I said to people, you have to zoom in to find small stories, you have to zoom out to find bigger stories, you know, journeys, and I think in this particular example we're using is you need to zoom out enough so that people can understand like, you need to find enough context, we're given a distance. So there is context. And you can understand what does this mean for a company, for example, but you need to zoom in enough. So we care. Because if you don't do one of the other, then fine. I understand the problem. I don't care. There's no person involved. But if you go just on the person fine. Yeah. But that's yes, I feel sorry for undress in his glued eyes. But what does this mean in the grand scheme of things, so for anyone not watching the video, his eyes are not glued, it would be really funny if one of your eyes was a little wonky. And I thought I didn't think he had the problem in his eye. His eyes look absolutely fine.


Andrés Oliveros 27:43

And I think that now that now that we are geeking out in like the storytelling topic, Francisco one, something else is that you can do as a Tarantino style, storytelling tool in which you start in the future, it may be some very abstract position of a company like so what is the future of this company, the future is in this company, I think, is to provide our customers or to create a better world or to connect them with like this abstract judgement that it could be like far in the future to take him from from Simon's Unix world, it can be like this, just cos that's in the future. And that's very abstract. So how are we going to get there? Let me tell you, why. What decisions are we taking? And why are we taking those decisions? So then you can go into the present, and then you can go into the past? I mean, you have to be careful, right? Because too much of that can like, Okay, I lost you. But if you do it correctly. And I think that great leaders know how to do this intuitively, intuitively, that that is amazing. It keeps like it takes out a lot of your shoulders, because you're playing with time, you're playing with audiences, you're playing with abstraction levels. And I don't know, I think that this is something that we humans have been doing. But I haven't seen that on paper. If you if you look for narratives in Amazon, by the way narrative, what is a narrative? I've been really obsessed with that word. And leaders use it like that with lots of different meanings. I don't know I mean, if you I say the word narrative Fransisco what what does it come to mind?


Francisco Mahfuz 29:20

This is the one of the biggest rabbit holes of getting into storytelling is and this is why i i found or pleasure plagiarise without realising this, you know, real life example that makes a point description, because I've seen every possible description you can think of. So some people talk about something with a beginning, middle and end, which is a terrible description. People talk about when a story is when a character is trying to solve a problem they care about. I have seen people say that its meaning wrapped in emotion, or something like that. Right. So, and all of those things, I think they're all correct, but they're not very prescriptive and if you tell someone our story is meaning wrapped in emotion, they have no idea what to do with that. So I think narrative and story the way I think of it now, I don't know how much this has been influenced by seeing the way you guys use the word narrative. I think I think of narrative as a broader thing. I don't think I'll ever use narrative to describe as most story I think I can use story to say, I'm going to give you the big story or the larger story about something, but I would never say, let me share with you the narrative of what happened yesterday, like I wouldn't, I can squish narrative down, I can blow story up, but I can't squish narrative down. That's the thing, how I think about it.


Andrés Oliveros 30:41

There's this passage in Obama's a promised land book, in which he speaks about Vladimir Putin. So there's this wonderful passage in which he describes how did Putin ascend to power and how they put in started polishing photographs in which he was like, with historical naked in a horse, I'm playing khaki and shooting guns. And at the end of that paragraph, Obama said something light, like all that he did, corroborated Putin's narrative. And, and he uses the word narrative, like four or five times in his book. And it's always about how those stuff that happened in the past, kind of means the same thing. Okay, so stuff that happened in the past kind of aligns a story of someone of his vision of his whatever, into the future. So I don't know that that that passage, and he does, he does a lot of times, he speaks about his personal narrative, you know, there's mixed race, a guy who, who was whose father abandoned him, and he has like, all his facts, all the stories that he tells, kind of fell and kind of matches his narrative. And I think that's something very powerful. I also heard Jeff winner that he was Lincoln's Axio. On tilaka. Until recently, he spoke about recently about the power of, but he didn't describe water narrative as so I think that I'm trying to after 10 years, I'm getting a little bit confident. I will not say, how do you say Saverio? There is no


Francisco Mahfuz 32:21

it'll be it'll be arrogant enough? Probably.


Andrés Oliveros 32:24

Yeah. It's no wonder I'm hoping it's not an arrogant, but it's after 10 years, I want to give these to the world my personal interpretation of what is the narrative? And in doing that, helping people like a clarify how to use it. Because if it's just meaning wrapping emotion, Oh, that's great. But Can I curse in this podcast? Can I?


Francisco Mahfuz 32:47

Yes, you're gonna use,


Andrés Oliveros 32:48

okay. F, what the f? F? Is that? Right? Don't say the F VF. Like, if you're like a brand manager, right in, like in CTE, or in AstraZeneca, or whatever. And you hear that this scriptrunner of narrative is like, Dude, I cannot do anything with that. But if I give you like this set of which is also like, always a problem of dumbing down something. But I think that we have found like this key of cloud to tell an abstract story, because the personal story from Z to we tell them everyday, right? We get to our homes. Well, we're not we are always in our homes, but we tell our friends and our family stories about how you glued your eyes and whatever. But if you want to tell the story about something that has been recently happening in the past, and how did you make some decisions? And how do you think that is gonna affect the future? I think the strategic story from anecdote is an amazing tool. We're trying to take that and put it down and like make a bridge between the personal anecdote energetic story,


Francisco Mahfuz 33:51

I think there is a danger that I fall under all the time. And this I think, is very common with people that have communication as their business is, we're all to a certain extent, trying to find their own way of doing things and find their own methodology and have our own our own proprietary content. And, and I'm afraid sometimes that we get into our heads that things have to be very narrowly defined, and it has to be this way. And not that way. For example, your story structure, right? So I heard you talk about another podcast, which I thought was quite amusing how you watched Robert McKee, who once he started venturing out into the business world and he No he does his normal lecture for 30 minutes and then goes Oh, and you can use this for business. And no one can use the hero's journey for business unless that's they've been studying that for years. It's one of the worst possible ways you can try to get someone to stories in business unless you're picking individual elements of it and say okay, now you know find that the guy or the return home or the call to adventure, but I you know, so when it comes to structures, right? There are so many different descriptions of what the structure of a story. So I, I use something similar to what you guys do I think I usually called context conflict and consequence, yours is very similar. It's resolution instead of consequence. I know someone that from from social media, he calls them context conflict, the turning point and the transformation. It's all the same if you understand what it is, but then some people get really hung up on Oh, no, but this and there has to be the five, the freight X triangle when you need to have the falling action, like if you know what you're doing, it's all the same thing. Right? And the same thing goes for, for for some tools, like I think I really like your expansion of, of what what the anecdote guys have done was a strategy story, but which perhaps I should have should have explained to some degree before their strategy stories, essentially, in the past, but then something happened. And now we are doing whatever so that the future looks in a certain way. I think they'll probably argue that, yeah, if we have to build a bigger narrative, we just go back a bit on the context and broaden out the scope. And we don't just focus so much on the little things. They might not even have this idea of like, No, it doesn't work for that. They just go Yeah, we just broaden it out a bit. So. So I think sometimes this is not a big issue. I just think that sometimes we might fall into the trap of looking at the structures and going, what is the perfect story type for this. And I have them as well. And I told people, you know, it's intentional storytelling. What's the end? What are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to show you're credible? Tell a story that show you facing a challenge. And that shows you credible, do I have to call that a challenge story? They call it a credibility story. Do I call it whatever other you know, a purpose story? Like Kyndra. Hall calls them? I think, once you understand at some point, it's all the same. But he's dying to tell me I'm wrong. So going,


Andrés Oliveros 36:58

No, no, no, no, no, no, actually not. I mean, I don't I don't know if I'm going to reveal secrets. But I know that, you know, these Mike Adams guy, which is a wonderful guy. He entered anecdote a couple of years ago, he's in charge of all the storytelling programmes related with sales. Okay. Yeah. And I was having this conversation, one on one with him. And he told me about this concept of success story. And I've heard a very different version of the success story from Shawn himself from the godfather. I'm from Mark of business.


Francisco Mahfuz 37:28

I named him the godfather of business storytelling that that all right.


Andrés Oliveros 37:33

Okay, so anyways, I heard a very different version of the success story where those guys, and they kind of made that comment to Mike Adams, which he was known on an anecdote. And again, I think I'm rebuilding like family matters. But Mike Adams, like, let her laugh. And he said, you know, what, we kind of decided between the three partners of anecdote not to get into details about how to change the success story, because when I tried to change something about like, their structures, those guys go into, like Robbie Cole, and they start giving, like a five hour discussion. And I think I'm a little bit the same. Like, I'm, I think that I am very, like gung ho on structure. Again, if it helps to change behaviour, like, I would like to see myself as if I'm going to do a change in the structure of a story. That means because there's science behind that change, again, I am a lawyer, I don't have like, no education, nor psychology, nor linguistic nor cognitive, whatever. But I think when, for example, I don't know how it how the importance of finishing your story with the call to action. Okay. So then you read, for example, I remember one chapter of Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit in which he tells a story about this, I think it's Swedish or, or I don't know, where what Hospital in Europe, in which they did an experiment in which they ask patients were just recovering from a hip or knee surgery to start, like writing things down about how were they going to exercise so that they can improve, right? So anyways, they did this experiment, they divided into an and those who actually wrote things down, there were like three times more, like advanced in their recovery. Okay, so like the main point of this Charles Hui point was, if you ask people to do something, like be very detail oriented on what do they want them to do? And that's something that I have I have come across also in the heat, the heat brothers books and some others. So again, if I'm going to propose a change in the story, in this case, to add a call to action, is because I have read some stuff, even though that I read it on maybe Malcolm Gladwell or something else, something while there are other authors which are like science writers, which sometimes they got proven wrong, but the it's an insight that


Francisco Mahfuz 39:58

I can gather is often proven wrong.


Andrés Oliveros 40:00

Yeah, but I think that he has brought more more good to the world that not because he's trying to do mainstream with all the science that is, like buried down in all those papers that nobody reads. So there comes this, Malcolm Gladwell, that and then Daniel Pink and then the Heath brothers, and then others in wizard trying to take all that science and put it mainstream, eventually, they're going to get some things wrong. But I think that I agree with a lot of things, right. But again, I'm going to close these points. And if I want to try to change the structure, I tried to not do it. Like, just because but try to justify it in something that I just read in a Journal of Neuroscience of whatever.


Francisco Mahfuz 40:38

Yeah, so I don't disagree. I don't disagree with anything that you're saying. Because I don't think that the issue is the structure, I think it's an issue of branding. Because if you understand what storytelling is for, and you understand enough about storytelling, that you need context, you need conflict, you need consequences, or resolution, you need those things, if you call your structures that or if you call them, you know, setup problem and outcome, that doesn't matter. It's the same thing. But there is a there is a branding, you know, of Kyndra Hall calls them causal structure, normal explosion and new normal, like, it doesn't matter. It's the same thing, you just calling it a different thing. So I think if you look at different people that work in storytelling, everybody has their own names for things. But if you get the point that the story is supposed to educate, to motivate or to create a connection with people, and you need to show an example of either when you did that in the past, or when you didn't do it in the past to highlight the difference, the change, then you're all doing we're all doing the same thing. We're just calling it in different ways. But the point about structure that I I wanted your take on is because you said you you really like structure. And this is something I find it can go both ways, right? So I, I don't ever think of structure when I'm writing a story when I'm going to tell a story. So because I think I have what some people call narrative intuition, right? So I kind of go, Okay, this is working, this is not working. Sometimes I'll look at it and go, actually, this needs to be highlighted. This needs to be different. But I'm not thinking this is the context. Now I'm going to talk about this is not how I think when I think of stories, but I guess a lot of people don't have that intuition at all. And if you don't give them a very prescribed structure, they just don't know what to do with it. And has that been your experience.


Andrés Oliveros 42:32

So I love to write more than I love to talk Francisco. So I have these news weekly newsletter, which is called in English, it should be something like behavioural curious or curiosity. comportamento. Like, it's about someone who which which is very passionate about understanding behaviour, right? So I wrote these posts, I write these posts in Saturday and Sunday. And I never talk about structure. I just write. I mean, again, I prefer writing and talking. And I think that John would agree that that was one of our main insights that I got from that workshop was shown in 2011, which is okay, we like anecdote is focused on oral storytelling. Okay. And I think, yeah, I mean, when you are a leader, at least in Mexico, and Mexico, nobody, nobody reads like you have, I mean, the stories that are going to work are the ones that are tell orally or recorded orally, or like Tik Tok, or Instagram or whatever. But, yeah, I'm very passionate about writing. So I, the thing about structure is, if I'm going to tell a normal story, I do try to follow some of the structures that I that I, that we teach at astronaut. But if we want, if I'm going to write a story about something that our How did I glued my face, I'm going to fall more into a journalist typing which you can maybe extend a little bit more, and you could put some maybe images and maybe some audios. So yeah, I mean, it's, it's a great question. And I don't know, I'm going to try to observe myself. But I think that when I'm going to tell an oral story, I do the Para structure, which is point example, recent contraction. I do try to do that. Actually, I have this talk that I'm going to give in a couple of hours. And always stories that I'm going to tell follow that structure, again, when they are told orally when I


Francisco Mahfuz 44:29

just run by that again, because you I know what that is structure is because of my corporate spine, but other people will know. I don't know if I was supposed to know but I know. So it's called para, which is point example reason an action so if I understand this correctly, or the point is usually the point of a presentation or or or a question that brings the idea of what you're going to talk about to mind. Example is usually a story. Reason is the day that the day The facts the the logical stuff that backs up your example. And action is call to action, which is a pretty nifty summary in four points of what any, obviously every speech needs to follow that I think the the RA have to be there, I would also have the example there, I think the only point of contention and it's not necessarily just between us, but between everybody that tells stories is some people think you definitely should have the point or a version of the point up there. And a lot of people's think, definitely not go into the story first, let the story do the work. Don't Don't Don't give it away, or don't try to just survive. If the story is well told, you will engage them in seconds. And you don't need to be getting the point. I'm not I don't fall into this side. I think that's there's in writing, you probably need the hook more than you need a hook in oral storytelling. That's my understanding. When I write when I write, my feeling is particularly social media, which I do a lot of my writing, I have to grab them with a one line. I can say, yeah, it was two weeks ago, I was in the living room with my wife, watch, that's not going to grab them. But if in my My theory here is that when you do that orally, the brain goes Hold on. This sounds like a story. And this and stories are important. I need to pay attention in writing. That doesn't quite work. And also people are scrolling. It's not a book. So Oh, sorry. Let me just give you one more because I think you're gonna love this this description. Matthew lakes with one of the storytellers that has most influenced me and I been talking about him all the time since I had him on the podcast. It I don't know if you know in the US they have that thing called the mass which is a storytelling Eventbrite, so they do the stories lamb which the competition, Matthew Dex has won the the moth stories lamb 51 times, in his wonder Grand Slam six times. And the way he is very much against giving the point in the beginning of the story. But the reason I'm bringing him up is because he describes stories like DSSS, as a written story is like a lake. Whereas an oral story is a river. So the lake is always going to be there. The same way you can dip in, you can dip out, that's fine. A story a story is a river. If you if I lose you, you can come back to the same place.


Andrés Oliveros 47:26

Wow, that's like the best thing that I've like heard on like four days. That's amazing. I love that Francisco.


Francisco Mahfuz 47:32

Very go. See I told you this would be worth it.


Andrés Oliveros 47:37

Media reveal? I said I


Francisco Mahfuz 47:38

said I said too many things. We'll go on. Sorry. I'll come back to play in a bit.


Andrés Oliveros 47:42

Okay. I mean, again, I've always have to quote Sean on this. Because para is an, again, an adaptation of something that I read on his blog, on their blog, sorry, in 2011, which they were talking about this improvisation tool that is using Toastmasters, which is prep, B R EP, which is point, reason example point. Okay.


Francisco Mahfuz 48:07

I say I've been a Toastmaster for 11 years, I have never heard of that.


Andrés Oliveros 48:11

Okay, so that's, that's an posted they wrote in this blog. And then they wrote another one in the next day saying, you know, what, we prefer changing the E for sorry, the E for the R, so they had this V structure, which is like an obscure structure that they use, which is point example. Reason points. Okay. So it's basically better, we only thought that it was that repetition, starting with a point and an end with a point it was a little bit like useless. So we change the point for an A, and that a actually can mean two things is not action only. We say that it could be an action. Or it could be an apprentice, okay, which is a learning. Sometimes you don't want necessarily people to like, like, raise from the chair and like do stuff. Maybe you just want to share something. So it could be pointed some reason Apprendi soccer, like learning so I learned about this. Yeah, or point, example, recent action, I really want you to go and do these three things. 123 Right. So I want to be really like very clear that is something that we use very inspiring on Sean Callahan an anecdote guys, where we have been like, We cannot leave like, like attached to the ideas we have to take the ideas and you know, simply on still like an artist. It sounds horrible. But it's we all we do it all the time. Like all I've guessed, I'm guessing that your storytelling practice Francisco, you have been like some percent of authors and practitioners another percent of your of your learning with work and working with clients, right?


Francisco Mahfuz 49:45

Yes. Because what happens with a lot of people is that you start finding that some things work better than others. So for example, one of the early learnings for me, was that it she was used to the live stuff, right? So I had Then public speaking for years, I had done plenty of training live. And then I started turning things around with COVID. And I was launching myself as a keynote speaker. And and I started getting some storytelling clients for coaching. And I found I tried this a few times. And I found that, like, you cannot really do one on one coaching, that is skills based with someone who doesn't have that much skill to begin with. Now, give me someone who has a project, sure, you can help them do a better TEDx presentation, meeting or whatever it might be, because you you're improving content. And while you're doing that, you're giving them technique. But if you're getting someone who wants to become a better storyteller, and you're trying to do it in a one on one environment, over zoom, I find that that that didn't work. And one of the main reasons it didn't work is because you don't get all the practice that normally would have gotten in a six hour session in a corporate. So I'm now in the process of filming the final videos of my online course, that's going to go on top of all the other stuff. And in some things, you want them to work. But then you really struggle because you were influenced by one person that you're going to teach you then people ask you questions like, I'm not sure like, I'm not sure I can square that. And sometimes you break it apart and build your own. And sometimes just go actually, I don't need like, these specific types of stories, and every single one has to be No, it's like, I'll give you some basic ones. But at some point, and it'll teach you to kind of take a broader view of it. So yeah, I think quite the question I always have is, how prescriptive do you need to be with structure? Because I know some people that do like, and then Rick, as I mentioned in the beginning, he teaches people, he teaches people one story. So he teaches people their signature story. And then he teaches them some additional stories that they can use in their business, they can offer a story or an expert story. But I don't think it does is any skill work, is just working on the content, because people are just going to tell that story. Whereas I think, you know, the guys from anecdote, for example, some of the work you do, it's what I do. I want people to be able to do things by themselves. I don't want to give you three stories. Because in leadership, that's not how it works. You know, three stories are not going to get you very far. You need to be able to do this on the fly on a regular basis. Otherwise, it's it's it otherwise, this is NIPER work, right? This one thing, let's get this project done. And then it doesn't really work.


Andrés Oliveros 52:32

Yeah, I think that listen to you, Francisco will say that sometimes people do need only three stories, like lots of people, but then there are some leaders that they need to be more fluent, and Moyle dynamic, when I'm guessing that don't those three stories for like, I'm not going to say 80%. But I already said it. Like a lot of people may be middle managers with those three stories. They're like, Dude, you're okay, you're ready to go, like start doing stuff, and then you will learn your own stuff. But for some leaders, they really are CEOs or, you know, managers, they have to start working with complex and with complex changes, they tree stories are not going to work for them.


Francisco Mahfuz 53:13

Yeah, I think it's intrapreneurs are much more likely to just need two or three stories, that that's really all they're gonna need. When when they're the front person of their business, because they need to tell people who they are, what they do. And, you know, why should anyone care. But I think where I get concerned of not having more schoolwork, is because I think, I think storytelling is is a language is actually the language of the brain. Like any language, you can get yourself directions, you can get yourself a beer or get yourself out of trouble. If you learned a few sentences really well, even with dubious accent. But you're not you don't know it right? You don't you've you missing out on a lot of the depth and the richness of that language, if you're not able to just speak it on a more regular basis. And if you are someone who speaks to your staff who presents all the time who speaks to write on social media, there, there are 1000s of opportunities for you to communicate that way. And if you've gotten all the story, but you don't know how to break it apart and use it in different contexts, then I think it can still do a lot of work. But But I wouldn't have liked to be taught that way. And perhaps mistakenly, I'm trying the course I'm building I'm taking people from this is not a story. This is a story all the way to the fancy stuff with the sad stories in the middle, because that's how I would have liked to be taught and I'll find out from more experience with that particular course if Should I just trim it down and give them the basics and leave the other stuff for for coaching or not but but but it's fun to find out as well. I think


Andrés Oliveros 54:55

this is this has been like the most geeking geeking conversation on Storytelling I had since 2014. And I'm going to tell you why in 2014. In 2014, Sean organised like her I don't know the exact words were like a convention, like for, like leaders or consultants who use storytelling as a tool. So the convention was in LA in Los Angeles. And I flew, there were like, maybe 20 people, in which one was Australian, 18 of them were North America, you're American, and one of them was Mexican. And we eat for two days on like storytelling, lore and stuff. And it was amazing. But it's something that it's not easy to talk with people like, maybe these podcasts, I know, you're going to have more like three bills, because we're going like into like the depth of all the storytelling, and I love it, Francisco, but I don't know it's he will resonate with people. Well, actually,


Francisco Mahfuz 55:54

actually, it's interesting that you say that, then I have more than three views.


Andrés Oliveros 56:00

But I'm joking, I'm joking. No, yours,


Francisco Mahfuz 56:03

yours, yours will be episode 6465. And with the exception of a few in the beginning, where it's a bit was a bit looser, I think from Episode 15, or 20. Pretty much every single episode is about the craft of storytelling, one extent or the other. And I've been trying to find different venues or different ways to talk about it. So that I recorded one recently was someone who does a lot of work, sort of therapeutic work on the stories people tell themselves and how to rewrite that. I talked about a guy who teaches scientists how to communicate better. I've gotten I've gotten Paul Zak on who is that you might know his work. So the scientists have found out about oxytocin. And there's, you know, you can talk about this stuff forever, if you like geeking out on the stuff that maybe you should become a listener of my podcast. But but you know, there's, there are others, you know, the one guy who knows Sean as well, Park Howell, he has a podcast called the business of story, who is now up to 300 episodes. And pretty much all of it is about the craft of storytelling, a lot of it might be about businesses that have used storytelling to, to make change. So they're not talking about they're not into the weeds like we are here. But there's a it's not a gigantic audience that likes this stuff. But the people that like this stuff really like this stuff. So so that's my, that's my tribe. I guess that's a great extent that would be ours as well, because I'm, I'm nowhere near getting tired of talking about it. So


Andrés Oliveros 57:28

let's say that, you know, I'm really I'm really thankful to Francisco for inviting me to this podcast, I will definitely become a listener because I do geek out on storytelling. And yeah, I forgot


Francisco Mahfuz 57:41

the name, the number now we might be episode number 32. Or three, the power of small stories with Sean Callahan, that when I think I will definitely look, I will definitely look for your joy. Okay, listen, I think we definitely could keep talking for hours. I say this about most guests. It's not always true. I'm sorry, if I said about your previous guests that he wasn't true. But I think in this case, it definitely is true. But I think we both have other lives to go back to I know, my children have busted the door in a second. So I want to thank you very much for your time again, and ask people if they want to catch more of your of your stuff. What's the best place to go to i'll link astral Lab, which by the way, if astral lab.com is a weird company that sells like cables. And I thought this is a very strange company to be storytelling. So ASTRO lab.mx Is your company website. But what's the best place if people want to talk to you or see any of the work you're doing?


Andrés Oliveros 58:38

I think that that will be my LinkedIn, which I know that's not very millennial Francisco. But that's where I usually leave. I spend more time at LinkedIn that basically it's sleeping. So yeah, I think that might like, following me through LinkedIn, I write maybe, maybe five, six posts a week. And I'm trying to be more focused on quality than quantity. Last year, I was like, fuck it. I'm going to publish like all my life and did a lot of lives. And I got these like LinkedIn top boys recognition. But right now I'm focusing more on doing like crafting messages. And I have this newsletter. So yeah, I think that will be Francisco RME to LinkedIn, and I will read it like one or every one or two posts. I will read ready to cue to astral left. So I think that will be the best way.


Francisco Mahfuz 59:28

Perfect. Well, thanks again for your time. I have a feeling this is not the last time we did


Andrés Oliveros 59:33

this mobile love to come back, Francisco.


Francisco Mahfuz 59:36

Alright, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time. I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find this show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tap out really appreciate it and he does help other people find this and if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story powers.com



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