Frank Rose, The Power of Strategic Storytelling and Narrative Thinking – InnovaBuzz 490

Frank Rose

Frank Rose, The Sea We Swim In

In this episode, I’m really excited to have as my guest, Frank Rose, the author of The Sea We Swim In and The Art of Immersion, a landmark book on tech and narrative. A former contributing editor at Wired and contributing writer at Fortune, he now teaches global business executives as faculty director of Columbia University’s Strategic Storytelling seminar and heads the Digital Dozen awards program at Columbia’s pioneering Digital Storytelling Lab.

In our discussion, Frank talked to me about:

  • Why we are turning away from advertising and seeking more immersive entertainment experiences
  • How to be strategic with storytelling in a way that engages and serves our audience
  • What he means by Narrative Thinking

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

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Strategic storytelling is all about developing stories that define who you are, what you do, and why you're doing what you're doing in a way that is strategic and long-term. @FrankRose on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

Show Notes from this episode with Frank Rose, Author of The Sea We Swim In

Key points and takeaways from this episode include:

  • Narrative Thinking is understanding the importance of stories and the role that stories play in our lives.
  • Stories are not just for entertainment. They are not just a set of facts. Stories are how we understand the world.
  • Time and conflict are important elements of a story. Stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Conflict is what makes people care about your story.
  • Being strategic is all about pursuing long-term goals.
  • Strategic storytelling is all about developing stories that define who you are, what you do, and why you’re doing what you’re doing in a way that is strategic and long-term.
  • People want to know origin stories. They want to know what they’re buying, where it came from, and why it’s produced the way it’s produced.
  • A story that just lists all the product’s attributes is not compelling at all.
  • People are resistant to advertising that interrupts what they’re doing. If you’re advertising something, make sure that it entertains people.
  • People want stories that entertain them in a way that helps them come across with their own identity.
  • People buy things that reflect them personally in order to establish who they are. How you position yourself in that place is where strategic storytelling comes into play.
  • Design thinking fosters creativity. It is giving ordinary people the mindset and tools that designers use in order to solve their problems.
  • Narrative thinking is all about giving people the knowledge, tools, and techniques of professional storytelling.
  • Narrative thinking is understanding what will help you become a storyteller. At the same time, it is understanding that storytelling is not just telling stories but listening to stories as well.
  • Stories are how we define ourselves as people. It is how our audience defines themselves and the reality. Our whole sense of reality is based on stories.
  • Stories are a distinct mode of thought and are just as important as logic and reasoning. Whilst logic appeals to our sense of reason, stories appeal to our emotions.
  • Emotions are not just key to stories but also to memory. Stories provoke an emotional response from us and also give us something to remember them by.
  • We understand stories by imagining and projecting ourselves into them.
  • The idea of a narrative platform is that there is not just one story that we tell about our self or our product. It is all of the stories we tell and everything that supports those stories.
  • When you have a powerful narrative that is told in many different ways and at the same time on many different media, it creates a way for people who identify with that story to increasingly immerse themselves in it. The more people do that, the more powerful and commercially successful you can be.
  • The three most important elements of a story are the author, the audience, and the journey.
  • When telling a story, keep in mind that your needs are not as important as your audiences’ needs. Understanding your audience, how to speak with them, and what motivates them are the keys to strategic storytelling.
  • Characters and details are also important parts of a story. How much detail you present and how you present them as well as providing your audience with appropriate answers to what kind of story you are trying to tell are the key elements of a strategic story.
  • The way you express yourself as a writer can be honed and improved but it cannot be changed into something that’s entirely different. When you are truly being yourself, you will be unique because you’ve had experiences that nobody else had and made judgements from them that nobody else has made.
Emotions are not just key to stories but also to memory. Stories provoke an emotional response from us and also give us something to remember them by. @FrankRose on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round 

Here are Frank’s answers to the questions of our innovation round. Listen to the conversation to get the full scoop.

  1. #1 thing to be more innovative – Be curious. You have to want to know more than what you already know. You don’t need a purpose for being curious because curiosity has its own rewards.
  2. Best thing for new ideas – Listening to yourself and talking to other people.
  3. Favourite tool for innovation – Following connections (connecting the dots). Channel your curiosity into wherever it wants to go.
  4. Keep project/client on track –  Hold them accountable to their promises. Demand excellence from yourself and other people. It’s not about telling others what to do. It’s about being an example.
  5. Differentiate – Be yourself. Nobody else can be you. We’re all the sum of our experiences and that’s what makes us different. Be authentic. Stop trying to be something you are not and just be yourself.

To Be a Leader

Be yourself. Understand yourself but be open to other people as well. The best way to start developing empathy is with yourself.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Frank through his website.

Suggested Guest

Frank suggested we have a conversation with Annie Murphy Paul, author of The Extended Mind. So Annie, keep an eye on your inbox for an invitation from us to the InnovaBuzz Podcast, courtesy of Frank Rose.



Cool Things About Frank

  • He lives in the East Village of Manhattan and travels widely.
  • He’s one of the Board of Advisers for New York’s Future of Storytelling Summit.
  • He’s a Peer Reviewer for the International Journal of Communication, an online, multimedia academic journal published by the USC Annenberg Press.
We're all the sum of our experiences and that's what makes us different. Be authentic. Stop trying to be something you are not and just be yourself. @FrankRose on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

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Jürgen Strauss

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is The World's Best Human-Centred Podcasting Coach and the only Podcast Innovator with the signature bright yellow headphones, who masterfully crafts human connection for high-impact achievers in a vibrant community. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, The InnovaBuzz Podcast, The Flywheel Nation Community as well as on Innovabiz' InstagramTwitter, Facebook pages and his personal Photography website.  

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