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Q&A – Peter Guber (Producer, Author – Tell to Win)

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With credits including such iconic films as An American Werewolf in London, FlashdanceRain Man, and Batman Returns producer Peter Guber clearly knows a thing or two about what makes a good story. If you’re interested in learning more about the philosophy behind his success, now’s the perfect time to school yourself via his new book
Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of
Story
. As Breaking Bad‘s own Executive Producer Mark Johnson states: “For decades now Peter Guber has understood the power of a great story. With his new book he makes it clear how successful storytelling is at the cornerstone, not just of selling and marketing, but of all social intercourse. This book should be on all of our required reading lists!” Need further proof? Read this AMC interview (or watch the video interview after the jump).

Q: You’ve spent your career in entertainment, where storytelling is the business. You’re intimately familiar with pitches, negotiations and deals, but in Tell to Win you have something bigger in mind: You talk about using “purposeful storytelling” to shape and direct both your business and your life.
When did you realize that storytelling was something much bigger than most people think?

A: I think I got through 35 or 36 years with the accent on the wrong syllable… or to put it another way, I had all the right letters but I had it backwards. I knew I was in the business of storytelling, but I realized very late in life that storytelling was a life tool.

Q: Meaning…

A: Human beings are hardwired to connect: It’s in our DNA. Social cohesion was built into language long before Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter — we’re tribal by nature. Tribes today aren’t the same as tribes thousand of years ago: It isn’t just religious tribes or ethnic tribes now: It’s sports fans, it’s communities, it’s geography.

Q: That’s an interesting way of putting it.

A: Without social cohesion, the human race wouldn’t be here: We’re not formidable enough to survive without the tactics, rules and strategies that allow people to work together. And stories didn’t come about accidentally; they were designed to provide emotional transportation for information. The idea isn’t just [to tap] the wisdom of the crowd, but the action of the crowd. People working together can create much more than any individual could.

Over time, the things that bound us together — the stories and the tools that enabled us to emotionalize your offering in stories — came to be been considered soft stuff, kid stuff. But it’s not. It’s powerful. Our stories are who we are: People think story is the icing on the cake, but it isn’t. It is the cake.

Q: Is the Super Bowl a good example? People who don’t know a tight end from an end game will watch this particular football game because it’s been presented to them as part of a narrative that sucks them in?

A: Yes. People want to be part of the tribe, part of the social culture, someone who was there when it happened and can share that experience. And the draw is story: The story of Brett Favre. The story of these two traditional teams [the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers]… how did they get there? Who’s going to win? That’s what engages people — it’s so freaking obvious. So how could I have missed it for 38 years? How’d I miss it?

Q: So what’s the takeaway, boiled down to its essence?

A: Here’s the point; you’re wired for this stuff… it’s like, “What’s this plug hanging behind me, this thing with two little prongs?” Well, it’s the thing you should plug in. Why not coach and mentor that? I’m not saying everything is story. I’m not saying everyone is the best or the worst. I’m saying this is a tool. You don’t have to use it, but this is the club of choice in your golf bag.

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