I often write in the blog about what it takes to become more persuasive in the workplace (including this column I wrote last year for Profit Magazine). A few weeks ago, one of my professional colleagues offered me a perspective I’ve never considered before, one that caught my attention enough that I want to share it with you. She said that when you seek to influence others, you can make your message more persuasive simply by adapting the classic villain-victim-hero action story-telling technique. Let me explain.
The customary formula for writing an action story requires that you have at least one villain, one victim and one hero. And you can do the same for the business world. But when you adapt this formula for the workplace, these three characters do not have to be people, they can be abstract feelings. So the villain could be the frustration that comes from working with an antiquated inventory system in the warehouse. In this situation, the victims are the warehouse employees, and the customers who don’t get their shipments on a timely basis. The hero is the new inventory management software system that you are proposing for the organization. Or the villain could be the confusing online registration process at the community college, in which case the victims are potential students and (perhaps more importantly) lower registration numbers. The hero of course is the new website (which is what you’re recommending) that is much more intuitive and user-friendly. In case you haven’t noticed, the key point here is that your solution, your point of view, your perspective is the hero. If you can present your position as the hero, juxtaposed against the background of the villain and the victim, then your argument becomes much more persuasive.
Well, you already know that this idea caught my attention, but I’d like to know what you think. Brilliant idea? Won’t work? What are the advantages and what are the downsides. Let’s discuss.