It's terrible. And no one wants to talk about it... "The Problem" of a story.

We're not talking about a problem resulting from telling a story. (Stories are fabulous. They can increase buying intentions by 133%.*) We're dealing with a story's key component, "The Problem."

Consider great movies, there's always dark before the dawn. 

Rocky-- Would you care if he wins the fight if he hadn't struggled so hard to get there?

Mrs. Doubtfire-- Would you care if he gets to see his kids if he hadn't worked so hard and then almost lost custody?

In business, people like to speak of positive outcomes, winning and growth. They are often hesitant to share anything negative. But, to pack the full punch of a great story, you need to include a problem or obstacle before you get to success. This applies to case studies, success stories, and a huge range of other story structures. 

When you set up a main character who faces "The Problem" and then he/she must struggle for the win, the listener starts to wonder,"What will happen?" 

If your story can hook the listener into that question:

  1. You bypass the listeners' defense mechanisms because they imagine themselves on the main character's team. They start rooting for him/her to win!
  2. You increase listeners' engagement. They lean forward and want to know more. 
  3. You increase listeners' memory of the story. The human brain records stories much deeper than regular, factual information.

So the next time you find yourself launching into a story, experiment with adding a little struggle. Life isn't always easy. When you embrace "The Problem" within a story, you'll come across as more authentic and bring the listener along the journey with you.