One of my favorite books on teaching is Made to Stick by Heath and Heath. They illustrate the power of story by telling this one:[1]

A friend of a friend of ours is a frequent business traveler. Let’s call him Dave. Dave was recently in Atlantic City for an important meeting with clients. Afterward, he had some time to kill before his flight, so he went to a local bar for a drink.

He’d just finished one drink when an attractive woman approached and asked if she could buy him another. He was surprised but flattered. Sure, he said. The woman walked to the bar and brought back two more drinks—one for her and one for him. He thanked her and took a sip. And that was the last thing he remembered.

Rather, that was the last thing he remembered until he woke up, disoriented, lying in a hotel bathtub, his body submerged in ice.

He looked around frantically, trying to figure out where he was and how he got there. Then he spotted the note:


A cell phone rested on a small table beside the bathtub. He picked it up and called 911, his fingers numb and clumsy from the ice. The operator seemed oddly familiar with his situation. She said, “Sir, I want you to reach behind you, slowly and carefully. Is there a tube protruding from your lower back?”

Anxious, he felt around behind him. Sure enough, there was a tube.

The operator said, “Sir, don’t panic, but one of your kidneys has been harvested. There’s a ring of organ thieves operating in this city, and they got to you. Paramedics are on their way. Don’t move until they arrive.”

Call a friend. See if you can tell them this story from memory. Now; contrast that with this piece:[2]

“Comprehensive community building naturally lends itself to a return-on-investment rationale that can be modeled, drawing on existing practice,” it begins, going on to argue that “[a] factor constraining the flow of resources to CCIs is that funders must often resort to targeting or categorical requirements in grant making to ensure accountability.”

Imagine you were to call a friend and try to recall that. Stories stick to the brain. But why?

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[1] Heath, Chip; Heath, Dan (2007-01-02). Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Kindle Locations 50-64). Random House. Kindle Edition.

[2] Heath, Chip; Heath, Dan (2007-01-02). Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Kindle Locations 76-79). Random House. Kindle Edition.