How to Develop Curiosity in Others
When you're working with people and proposing creative ideas, oftentimes you run into this problem. We need them to be curious enough to consider our creative ideas. Two studies that came out kinda recently that bothered me, and you'll hear why. The first study was it was one of what attributes make you more likely to be promoted into leadership in corporate America? And there are all these things that basically people, you know, they studied people's paths to CEO. And they asked people kind of what were the attributes that they thought of when they thought of a leader. What makes you more likely to vote for someone, all of that. And the leadership qualities that they basically rose to the top are you appear to look like a leader. This is why, it turns out that, presidents are really tall. Presidents tend to be much taller than average and CEOs tend to be much taller than average. And sales people who get promoted tend to be tall. Like we think of the leader as like an imposing person.
That was one, it's sort of depressing. Other things that came out of that were persuasiveness and sort of stoicism and being able to withstand attack and all that. And then another study that came out like a week later, or something like that asked Fortune 500 CEOs what are the leadership traits of the next generation of leaders that you want to take over your job to help steer your company into the future. Number one was creativity, not all those other things. Turns out that creativity in first study was at the bottom of the list. It was inversely correlated with being promoted to leadership, which is depressing. So we're not gonna promote creative people to leadership. But leaders say we need creative people in leadership. And the problem is that creativity scares people. Inside of our brains, anything that's novel, anything that's creative, that's new, that's never been done before is risky, it's a question mark. Whereas, prehistorically leadership was about providing stability and security. And so that's why we put these people in leadership. Or if we're not thinking consciously about it we tend to put in leaders who are not creative, who feel like the thing we're familiar with. So creativity scaring people is a problem for us in the creative field. And so what we need to do is we need to awaken people's curiosity and get them to overcome the natural fear of something that's different. And we can do this through something else that's built into our mental wiring. So it turns out in our brains we have the capacity to override this. A lot of great organizations have creative leaders. And the most creative leaders that manage to succeed and make it to the top are people who are very good at telling stories, it turns out. It turns out that stories do something pretty magical to our brains. They build relationships, they make people care about things, they help people be not afraid in order to do things that are sort of impossible. Think about every great social movement that ever happened. Think about how we got civil rights. Civil rights didn't happen because the New York Times published the statistics of injustice that was happening. Happened because we learned the story of a woman who wouldn't give up her seat on the bus. The stories inspire the emotions that help us overcome the fear. And this is a pattern that we see throughout history, that great creative leaders are masters of stories. They use stories to help people become bold and help people become curious about their ideas. So if you wanna become a better creative collaborator, I think learning to tell stories about your ideas, about what you're trying to do, are one of the best ways to actually do that. So I wanna spend the last little bit of this segment of the course talking about the four elements of world class storytelling, and how you can weave this into whatever you're doing. Whether you're writing down, whether you're presenting your ideas, whether you're just talking to people, these four elements can make you better at communicating, persuading and unlocking curiosity, getting people to be brave than anything else. And I'm gonna do this through this story of the greatest story ever told, which everyone knows is Star Wars. All right, Star Wars is the greatest story ever told. Now George Lucas almost didn't create Star Wars. We almost wouldn't have gotten Star Wars if he hadn't been such a terrible driver. 'Cause George Lucas' dream was not to make Star Wars, it was to be an Air Force pilot. When he applied for the Air Force, they wouldn't let him in 'cause he had too many speeding tickets. And, thank God, 'cause his backup plan was film school and this is how we got Star Wars. But George Lucas went to film school, started making films. He did not have a big budget for films. But when he made Star Wars, it defied all of these odds and it literally changed the world. There's a great book called How Star Wars Took Over the Universe, or something like that, by an editor from Mashable, that basically starts with his quest to find a human being that had never heard anything about Star Wars. And he couldn't do it. He ended up going to like some American Indian tribe in the hills and went to the elder who's 90-years-old and then was asking him questions and he's like he doesn't know about Star Wars. And then the guy was like, "Wasn't the dad the bad guy?" And he's like, "No, you know about Star Wars!" So Star Wars is literally taking over the world. And we wouldn't have gotten it if it wasn't for the way that George Lucas told this story. So the first thing he did when he made the first Star Wars is he combined some things that he really loved. He really loved 50s and 60s muscle car culture. It was one of his personal passions. It was something that connected with the culture at the time. He loved Kung Fu movies. And then that was something that was sort of popular among certain subcultures as well. He loved the classic story The Odyssey. So that adventure through space and time, or not space and time, but across great lengths, he turned it into an adventure through space. He loved The Odyssey and that classic kind of hero's journey. He loved Buck Rogers, which was these comic books, these sci-fi things that kids were getting into. When you look at Star Wars, he basically took this 50s-60s muscle car culture and he turned them into speeders and space ships. It looks kinda like that car culture. There's some familiarity to it. Took the Kung Fu flicks and he basically put the same helmet on Darth Vader and the made the Storm Trooper army exactly like a Kung Fu army. And he went and he ripped off the storyline of The Odyssey, put it in outer space. And then he literally took the costumes from Buck Rogers. If you look at Buck Rogers comic book covers, it's the same thing where's the guy with the light saber and the person over here, and there's a Wookiee, or whatever. He just took that. And he smashed them all together and he made Star Wars. Now everybody who was working on Star Wars thought that this was a terrible movie. Says it's not gonna work, they thought it was cheesy. And they had no idea that people were gonna line up over and over and over again to watch this movie, because everyone saw something in Star Wars that they could relate to, even though it was a movie about space and Wookiees and all that. And it turns out that he nailed this thing. That is the first element of great stories is you want people to be able to relate instantly, to have some familiarity with what's going on in the story. And it starts with human characters. So Star Wars doesn't start with like the cantina with crazy aliens doing the flute, or whatever. If that's how the movie had started, it wouldn't have gotten so popular. It starts with these sort of human characters, these robots that you instantly recognize their relationship sort of bickering. They love each other, but they have this thing going on. And then when they part ways in the desert, you're like, "No! "Little robot!" And like instantly you have this affection for them. And then it also starts with this kid who's very familiar to all of us. He's growing up, he has dreams, but he can't get to them. He's sort of being held back from his dreams. And all he wants to do is see the universe or whatever. We all relate to that. This instantly got people hooked, even though the subject matter was a little bit foreign. Also has familiar villains. Familiar villains tend to be really great elements of great stories. I sort of already ruined this, but does everyone know that the dad is the bad guy? So I'm sorry if you don't, it has been 40 years. You can see in the villains in Star Wars part of yourself. You know, the bad guys used to be good guys. The plot of the risk that every character has, every main protagonist in the story has, is becoming the villain, which is something that we all can deeply relate to. Psychologically, we're most fascinated with and we detest the most the people who have the attributes that we see in ourselves that we detest the most. So Darth Vader is the perfect villain for that reason. We could all become Darth Vader. Luke could become Darth Vader. That's why he's such a great villain. This is a little chart of this classic Odyssey structure, and it's the hero's journey, which is something that we all relate to, 'cause this is a journey of every human being. Luke gets called to adventure. He gets a supernatural aid, he gets the light saber. He has a helper or mentor that helps him out. And then he goes into the unknown. He has to leave his home. He faces all these challenges that at one point he's really in the abyss. And then he climbs out of it, he changes, and then he returns home. If anyone's seen the new Star Wars, now he's mentoring the next generation. This is a story of my grandfather. This is a story of your grandparents. This is a story of every human being. And we all risk dying at any point of this. But this is the journey that we all know as human beings. And these kinds of stories, it turns out, lights something up in our brain that make us want to pay attention and want to care. This happens in comedy, too. Every episode of Seinfeld, basically George wants something. He wants hair, so he gets a toupee, but then the hair changes him. And he sort of enters this unknown situation, turns him into a jerk. He starts dating this woman and then his friends are like, "George, you've changed." So they help him out and they get rid of the toupee. And then he sorta climbs out of that dark place. And he apologizes to her and he's like, "Hey, look, I've learned my lesson. "I love you." And she says, "I always like tall men, anyway." And she dumps him. Then he goes back having changed, having learned his lesson. Except because it's Seinfeld, he, like next episode, hasn't learned his lesson. But that journey, that familiar pattern gets us, it really does something to us. This is what every BuzzFeed list that isn't about animals does. They pick a group of people. My favorite is they had a list called 25 Reasons Why Sweden is the Greatest Country Ever. Everybody who lived in Sweden shared that story, 'cause they could relate to it. Everyone who knew a Swede shared that story. That's BuzzFeed's secret. Element number two of great stories starts with another movie. How many of you saw Zoolander? Everyone? Yeah, everyone saw Zoolander. How many saw Zoolander number two? One person. Did you like Zoolander number two better? Nobody says yes to that question. Zoolander number two made a lot of money. A lot of people when to see it because Zoolander one was great, but it got a much poorer rating than Zoolander one, because as much as we love familiarity in a story we also want novelty. Turns out that we make lots of sequels 'cause they make money. Sequels don't do as well, because they're often a sort of repeat of the same story. Now the best sequels are the ones that are actually more of a sag, whereas chapter two of a movie, this is where Star Wars, once again, gets it right. Star Wars continues this story. It isn't just the gang getting back together and repeating the same thing. The main criticism that Star Wars ends up getting, the Star Wars number seven, was actually that it followed the plot line of the original ones a little too well. Even though introduced novelty, we still paid a billion dollars for it. Anyway, so you're brain on novelty, basically, when you see something new more of your brain lights up than when you see something you're familiar with. This is your brain's way of determining whether something is a threat. You encounter a new person, you see a new object you'd never seen before. Story is taking you into uncharted territory. Your brain is paying more attention, 'cause it wants to know is this safe? Or is this useful? So one of my favorite examples of a story that basically where novelty went, flopped kind of like Zoolander two, is remember that Oreo tweet a few year ago? Power went out in the Super Bowl and Oreo tweeted this thing out. Everyone in advertising circles loved this little mini thing. Power went out in the Super Bowl, Oreo's social media person said, "Power out? "No problem, you can still dunk in the dark." Pretty clever. 15,000 people shared it. The next year, every company that sold a food item was like waiting to jump on any event. So like there's a two point conversion in a company that makes desserts had like a cake made out of a football. And they're like, "Tastes like a two-point conversion." And no one shared that, like it was dumb. There's a fried chicken company that had a bowl that was like, "This bowl is so famous "you might even call it a super bowl." And no one shared that. And it's like maybe if one of those things would've been clever the first time around, but it's not clever the second time around. So a great story starts in a place of familiarity. And then it amps up the novelty as you go. So you start with Luke in his home place. You start with characters you can relate to. But then it takes you into the vast unknown. And you wanna stay in this zone where you're bringing people into this area of novelty. But you're not staying in one place at the same time. So Star Wars, if you just watched the last Star Wars and never saw any of the other ones, you might kinda be like, "This is weird." and not be as invested. But if you start from the beginning, it drags you into this place where you have the ideal combination of relatability and novelty. So around this point, usually when I'm talking about stories, someone will say, "Well, I'm no Hemingway. "I'm not a storyteller. "I'm not a writer. "I can't get up in front of people and tell stories." It turns out that I'm not a Hemingway, either, 'cause couple years ago, I did a little thing where I was talking to a friend of mine about how we could increase our writing level as writers. And so I decided to run my first book through a reading level calculator. Turns out that my writing level is an eighth grade writing level. Got really depressed about this. It was like how do I improve this? I don't wanna write like a kid. And so then I was like, well, what do I gotta shoot for? What's Hemingway's writing level? So I ran bunch of his work through the reading level calculator. And it turns out that he writes at a fourth grade reading level, the opposite direction I thought this would go. And so then I obsessively put everything in my Kindle through the reading level calculator. I went down this rabbit hole, wrote a whole story about it. And then I even charted percentage of Americans that can read an academic paper. Hardly any of us can really get an academic paper. No wonder I hate Good to Great. More of us like Jurassic Park because more of us can read it. But The Old Man and the Sea and Harry Potter, most people can read this. And it turns out that even if you can read the academic paper, you'd rather read Old Man and the Sea, because it's easier to get through. You can focus more on the story. This is the third element of great stories, which is fluency. We often think that the better writing is the more complicated writing, with the better words, and you know, the more complex it is, or the better stories are the ones that are sort of crazy and hard to understand. Turns out it's the opposite. Kinds of stories that are the most popular are the kinds of stories that are the easiest to get through. This is my favorite professor in journalism school. She always said, "Great writing speeds you along." But the point of writing is not to sound impressive, it's to get your through. I also liked her 'cause we had the same haircut at the time. Let's move right past that. (audience laughing) So you think about Star Wars, those movies move so quickly. And George Lucas actually said after the first Star Wars, they accidentally did this. So his wife was the head of the editing crew. And they were on such a budget, she had such little material to work with that they had to make the cuts really fast. And the scenes were like clips, were really short. The longest clip is like the first 30 seconds, this long shot of the space ship. And that's it. And everything else is like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Turns out that people really loved this. It made it feel like the movie was half as long. And I have a friend from the Soviet Union, who she moved here when she was a kid. And somehow she missed Star Wars. She knew about it, but she missed it. So we made her watch all the Star Wars. And it was remarkable. The original trilogy, doing that, she got it. There was no like, "What's going on? "What's happening?" The 90s Star Wars movies that everyone kind of didn't like as much. Those are the ones where she was like, "Who is that? "What's happening?" Those are the ones that we didn't like as much because they got a little too carried away, a little too complicated. And it was a little too fast. It wasn't fluid, fluent. So if you think about fluency as a speaker, it's people can understand you without having to try. It's not speaking so fast and so crazy, so complicated that people don't get it. Star Wars did this really right. And the last two movies, last three, actually, if you count Rogue One, did this really well. They pull you through. You feel like you don't have to think. You just get the story. Fourth element of great stories starts with another movie. Mission Impossible 3, you remember that one? Starts with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is handcuffed to a chair, Philip Seymour Hoffman has a gun to Cruise's girlfriend's head. And he's saying, "Tell me where the rabbit's foot is." And Tom Cruise is like, "I don't know!" And he's like, "Tell me where the rabbit's foot is." He's like, "I don't know!" It was my best Tom Cruise impression. (laughs) (audience laughing) And he says, "I'm gonna count to "and then I'm gonna shoot her." And he counts to 10 and then at 10, the screen goes blank. And it's like three months earlier. And then you have to learn what happened leading up to that point. I remember having to pee in the theater when this movie started. And I remember holding it until it got back to that part. So I didn't wanna miss what happened. And this is the fourth element of great stories, which is tension. The tension of the beginning of that story made me not want to quit, made me not wanna pee. I held my ground on my biological origins so that I could get back to that part of the story. These are the kinds of stories that we love. The thing about the worst love story, goes something like Jack and Jill were next door neighbors and they grew up, and they decided why not get married? And they lived. That's a boring love story. The best love story might be Romeo and Juliet had their families, wanted to keep them apart and wanted to kill each other. And they were willing to die for each other. And they did die for each other. That's a great love story 'cause there's so much tension. Now Aristotle talked about how a great story basically establishes what is and then what could be. And the gap between that is the tension. And that's the story, that's why we care. A great story does that over and over and over again until you end in kind of the new place. He said ideally it ends in a place of bliss. But the more you can establish what is an what could be, and the bigger that gap, the more you do that, the better the story. So if you think about Star Wars, these are family movies that all of us love. But in every movie, someone you care about dies. Someone important to you does not make it. Planets get blown up. The stakes are incredibly high. And for movies that are good for kids, there's actually a lot of sort of really intense stuff in these movies And yet we love these movies. And that's in part why we love them. Is that even if we know that probably the good guys will win, we don't actually know if the good guys are gonna win this time. You know, Han Solo gets put into carbonite, or whatever, right? And we don't know how that's gonna turn out. So Star Wars did this really right. And so when you think about when you're trying persuade someone for your creative idea, bringing this all back to creativity, you're trying to get someone to overcome their fear of creativity, trying to get someone to do what needs to be done, think about Star Wars. Think about you want them to be able to relate to whatever you're talking about. You wanna show them something novel that interests them. You want it to be really easy for them to get through and to understand. And you want there to be tension. You wanna play with the gap between what is an what could be, 'cause that's what's gonna get people to care. So bringing this back, every great breakthrough that required people to work together happened because of a story making them care, making them willing to link arms and to go against the odds to do what was necessary. And so like I said, stories could unlock our curiosity and motivate us to move into the unknown. One of the best things that you can do as a creative collaborator is to get good at that, is to get good at that, at telling great stories. And, I mean, it doesn't matter if we have all the ingredients and all the heuristics and the perspectives and all the things that can make us create something amazing, if we don't have the curiosity, if the people who we need to pull it off, or who need to accept the project, aren't brave enough to try something different, and aren't curious enough to look, then it's not gonna happen. So this brings me finally back to that road in nowhere Idaho. We're stuck on the side of the road. And it's getting late, it's getting dark, it's getting cold. In the front of the van, it's one of those vans where the console, you can open it up and you can see the engine from the inside, which is good 'cause it's cold out. So my dad and my grandpa are up there. And they determine that the problem is the fuel injector, which is basically this little thing that squirts bits of gasoline into the engine every once in awhile. And so my grandpa is like this shaky old man And he has this straw. He's sucking gasoline out of a thing, spitting it into the dead fuel injector, while my dad's trying to start the van. That's not working. And my brother and I are trying to be not the first one to die in the backseat. And we're back there fighting and we discover under the seat a Super Soaker. It's got the dregs of last summer in it. And so we start shooting each other with it. And my dad, he's frustrated. His poor, heroic, wife is at home with three kids and no idea that we're here. He turns around and yells, and he says, "Would you cut it out with the Super Soaker? "Sit on other sides of the van, shut up!" And then my grandpa turns around and he says, "Hey, actually, can you show me how your toy works?" So we taught him how the Super Soaker works. He's curious enough to explore this. And it turns out that if you fill a Super Soaker with gasoline, hook it up to a dead fuel injector, two refills of a Super Soaker will get you 100 miles through the desert of nowhere Idaho back to a heroic wife and mother of five in time for bed. And you think about all of the people, all the collaboration that it took to make that happen. The poor son of a handyman, his daughter, the beta tester, the toy company that made the production possible, Korean War vet who's curious enough to pay attention and explore what some obnoxious kids were playing, and my dad, the engineer, that figured out how to make it all happen. This is how breakthroughs happen. This is how we change our worlds and how we can maybe change that world.