It's a collection of 12 Wall Street parables.
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Almost every hour of your waking life is spent consuming stories. The Nielsen media consumption metrics for the first quarter of 2020 showed that American consumers now view media for more than 12 hours a day – a record high. Regardless of whether the media type is television, social media, podcasts, or other apps, what these content vehicles have in common is that they tell stories.
Stories capture and hold our attention, and as the attention economy expands, storytelling is a smart messaging tool. The inscription on my bottle of mezcal tells a story. The pictures on brochures that I receive in the mail tell a story. The bread I buy to make my toast every morning is made by ex-convicts to promote job security after imprisonment – another story.
Stories open up our innate curiosity about human behavior. When Bill Gates first met Warren Buffett in 1991 and asked him what his favorite book was, it should come as no surprise that Buffett's recommendation was a collection of stories.
"I'll lend you my copy," said Buffett. In a blog post written 20 years later, Gates joked that he still has the book in case Buffett wants it back.
Related Topics: Identifying your "Curiosity Type" is key to achieving more
Mainly wowing two titans in the business world, the book was a collection of stories by longtime New York contributor John Brooks entitled Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street.
Why stories get our attention
Business Adventures tells a dozen mid-20th century retail stories in a prosaic, characterful style. It's actually a collection of stories from previous editions of The New Yorker.
And when we look at the most recent blockbuster content created over the past few decades and focused on business – Succession, Mad Men, and Shark Tank, to name a few – a common centerpiece is effective storytelling.
This is because stories evoke emotions, and research has shown that emotions embed memories more deeply in our minds. If you want your message to be preserved, then use psychology and somehow evoke emotions.
Related: Copywriters Use These 4 Psychological Tactics To Make Attentive Headlines
Of course, Gates and Buffett love this book – it's about business, but it's told through a story. As Gates describes in a blog post, a lot of business details have changed, but the basics haven't.
Learn from previous business opportunities
Gates' findings are interesting when you consider that one of the warnings pointed to benefits and opportunities that Microsoft has among many other companies. Here are some of the most popular parables from Business Adventures:
Xerox's innovation faux pas, where the company heavily funded Ethernet research in the 1970s and opened the door for other companies to run forward and seize opportunities.
The introduction of the Ford Edsel, a cautionary story about the timeliness of customer research, the importance of product quality and the changing needs of the markets.
Insider Trading, telling the story of how insider trading laws became more stringent after a 1959 corruption exposé in Texas Gulf Sulfur amid skyrocketing investor profits.
Related: Bill Gates made these 15 predictions in 1999 – and it's scary how accurate he was
Sharpening your business acumen doesn't have to be a boring endeavor. Take a look at what organizations have experienced in the past and you will find that stories about the human condition are a common denominator – and information that can help you gain your own competitive advantage.