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Tsunami Motorcycle Story Was Important

A recent article in Harley Davidson’s Hog magazine reported that a Harley Davidson motorcycle washed ashore, still in the container, on the west coast of Canada months after the tsunami that struck Japan. The motorcycle was taken to the Harley museum but the curators were not sure how to handle the bike that had been severely damaged by the ocean water.

After much discussion, the museum decided to keep the bike in the condition that it was found, rather than restoring it, even though they realize that the sand and salt will continue to corrode the bike over time. The reason? They felt the story was more important than restoring the condition of the bike. Because it was the current condition of the bike that told the story.

Coincidentally, that’s a great story that shows the value of great stories.

As a speaker and author, I believe in the power of stories. I attend conferences and meetings all over the country and I listen to a lot of industry experts, managers, and executives who speak at these same meetings. Repeatedly, I see these speakers try to influence their audience with charts, graphs and data. Simultaneously, I see their audiences glaze over wishing for something more exciting to capture their attention.

Let’s be clear. There are times when data and information are necessary. But even in those situations, if the data is combined with a powerful story, the information has a greater impact.

When I worked in hospice care, the cost of care exceeded the reimbursement we received from insurers. So, since we cared for anyone regardless of ability to pay, we needed to raise funds to pay for the care for those people who had no insurance. Our fundraisers could have just asked people to contribute to the fund and hope that they understood the need. But if, instead, we told a story of a particular young patient who was a single mother with two children who lived in public housing and was dying of cancer, I can guarantee that more money would have been raised.

Similarly, Harley Davidson could have restored the tsunami motorcycle and then showed photos of the damage with a brief explanation of what happened. But they chose to show you the whole story. In doing so, the message was so much more powerful.

How can you use stories in your own life and work?

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