HPR

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Recent research from Carnegie-Mellon University indicates that our unconscious minds actually make better decisions when left alone to deal with complex issues.” – Nick Morgan, communications consultant, president and founder of Public Words

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According to communications expert Nick Morgan, merely presenting data is no way to convince people of anything – no matter how self-evident that data may appear to be, and no matter how intelligent your audience.

In his May 14, 2014 post on the HBR Blog Network, Morgan tells the story of an executive who wanted to persuade his team that their company would be better off if they replaced one of their long-time vendors. The executive developed a presentation that clearly demonstrated, with statistics and charts, the advantages of letting this vendor go. The presentation did not achieve the desired result: no one paid the statistics any heed.

Morgan says:

I advised the executive to scrap his PowerPoint and tell a story about the opportunities for future growth with the new vendor, reframing and trumping the loyalty story the opposition camp was going to tell. And so, in his next attempt, rather than just presenting data, he told his colleagues that they should all be striving toward a new vision for the company, no longer held back by a tether to the past. He began with an alluring description of the future state – improved margins, a cooler, higher-tech product line, and excited customers – then asked his audience to move forward with him to reach that goal. It was a quest story, and it worked.

Morgan explains that the most effective way to influence the thinking of others is to make contact with their unconscious rather than their conscious minds. He suggests to those who want to get others to see things from a new perspective that they tell a story interwoven with facts, rather than starting with the facts.

There are many situations in which lawyers could put this kind of approach to work to the benefit of their clients, their colleagues, newer lawyers – even opposing counsel. Morgan’s article is fascinating (and well supported by data!) and I encourage you to read it.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter, either by leaving a comment on this post or by contacting me directly by email.