Peter Guber Q&A
I believe my first exposure to Peter Guber as a storytelling guru was his participation in Steve Denning’s annual Smithsonian storytelling conference a few years back. Though I didn’t attend that year, I became aware of Guber’s passion for storytelling. Later, I read his popular piece in the Harvard Business Review, “Four Truths of Storytelling” (which you can purchase for $6.95 from Harvard Business Review; Steve Denning offers a summary of the article here). I’m thrilled to have him participate in my Q&A series.
Bio: Founder and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, the visionary multimedia venture spanning movies, TV, sports, and new media, Peter Guber is an enormously successful executive in the entertainment and communications industries. Prior to Mandalay, Guber was chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, chairman and CEO of Polygram Entertainment, co-founder of Casablanca Record & Filmworks and president of Columbia Pictures. Films he personally produced or executive produced, including Rain Man, Batman, The Color Purple, Midnight Express, Gorillas In The Mist, The Witches of Eastwick, Missing, and Flashdance, have earned more than $3 billion worldwide and garnered more than 50 Academy Award nominations.
Guber can currently be seen as co-host of “In the House,” a weekly, national half-hour news and interview show on Encore and KNBC. “In the House,” and it’s predecessor, “Shootout”, have been on air for more than six years.
A passionate, humorous and tireless motivator, Guber is a sought after speaker at numerous global events. He is a weekly entertainment and media analyst for Fox Business News and has also appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Today Show,” MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” Fox News’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” and CNBC’s “WSJ with Maria Bartiromo.”
A noted author, Guber co-wrote the best seller, Shootout, which was released in hardcover and paperback. In December 2007, Guber wrote the cover article for the Harvard Business Review titled, “The Four Truths of the Storyteller.” He also authored op-ed pieces for the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Guber’s third book, Tell To Win — Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, will be published by Crown on March 1. The core message of his forthcoming business book is that a purposeful story, well told, can move people to shared goals and greater success.
Guber is co-founder of Geek Chic Daily, a daily email newsletter with inside information on video games, technology and apps, comics, collectibles, TV and film. He is an investor and serves on the board of directors of Demand Media, a leading content and social media company at the forefront of the new media landscape. Guber is the chair of the Founding Board of Advisors for The Center for Managing Enterprises in Media, Entertainment & Sports (MEMES) at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
In November of 2010, Peter Guber, together with Joe Lacob, Managing Partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, acquired the Golden State Warriors. Guber is owner and co-executive chairman of the NBA franchise that services the Bay Area.
Guber is a full professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and has been a member of the faculty for more than 30 years. He is a member of the UCLA Foundation Board of Trustees, as well as the winner of UCLA’s prestigious Service Award for his accomplishments and association with the university.
Q&A with Peter Guber:
Q: You’re a well-known storyteller in the area of entertainment, having produced a plethora of the most critically acclaimed and financially successful movies ever. What inspired you to write a new book about telling purposeful stories?
A: I’ve had 40 years of experience in every area of telling stories — from leading entertainment companies, sports enterprises, new-media ventures, entrepreneurial endeavors to serving as a professor at UCLA where among the many courses I teach is an annual class called “Navigating A Narrative World.”
Despite this history, it wasn’t until Act III of my life when I had an epiphany that the power of oral storytelling is the secret to professional and personal success. My “ah-ha” was that everyone shares a universal problem — to succeed you need to persuade your listener or listeners to support your vision, dream, or cause. In decoding my own successes and failures, a consistent pattern emerged. I realized that when I was successful, I was connecting to my listeners emotionally, aiming at their hearts by telling purposeful stories. Embedded in these stories was the information on which I wanted them to act. When I failed, I was firing soulless PowerPoint bullets, facts, and information. In other words — I was firing blanks!
Through my new book, Tell To Win, as well as through media interviews, speeches, articles, and graduate courses I teach at UCLA, my mission has become to empower students and others to benefit from the persuasive power of telling purposeful stories and using this as their game changer in the Act I’s and Act II’s of their lives. In fact, it was at the exhortation of my master’s students that I codify the currency that resulted from “Navigating A Narrative World” so it could be shared with a wider audience, that inspired me to write a book on this subject.
Q: You particularly emphasize oral storytelling. What’s your rationale for that emphasis?
A: The highest and best use for telling purposeful stories is in the room, face-to-face, breathing the same air and reading each other’s micro-expressions — something you can’t do as effectively in any other medium.
In writing my new book, Tell To Win, I conversed with the foremost folks in technology — people like Chris Kemp, chief information officer at NASA Ames Research Center, Phil McKinney, the chief technology officer at Hewlett Packard, and Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, and many others — and asked them if digital or state-of-the-art technology could replace what I call state-of-the-heart technology. Their response was an overwhelmingly consistent “not at this time.” In fact, Arianna said it best when she asserted in front of one of my master’s UCLA classes where I’ve been a professor for more than 30 years, that the more time we spend in front of screens, the more we crave the intimate in person interactions where we tell our stories to realize our dreams. And, she didn’t stop there! She exhorted my students that if there’s something incredibly important upon which everything depends, you always want to be in the room.
Q: Is it not possible to achieve the same effects of oral storytelling with written or digital storytelling or other delivery methods?
A: I would say you can’t yet duplicate the same effects of telling oral stories in the same room breathing the same air, pressing the flesh. However, many of the critical elements of telling purposeful stories work in other mediums.
Always motivation comes first which starts with you — your intention. This authenticity must shine through. The trick is not to try to be interesting, but to be interested — know what your audience is interested in and deliver what’s in it for them.
All good telling of stories has a goal — the action you want your listener to take. Don’t hide it. Interactively, engage your listener, your audience, so it’s not a monologue, but a dialogue. It is a conversation in which the telling becomes a “we” experience rather than a “me” experience. A critical marker is the willingness of the teller to surrender proprietorship over the story so the listener can own it and viral market it as her own.
The story content is lurking everywhere — first-person experience is best, but equally powerful is an observed event, a movie/book/artifact, or even a metaphor or analogy. Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?
A: We’re living in an age of acute economic uncertainty and rapid technological change. It is not the 0’s and 1’s of the digital world, but the ooh’s and aah’s of telling your stories that can overcome fear and make the powerful emotional connections in its listeners, compelling them to act. Great stories sell products, build brands, foster relationships, and change history. Connecting with others through telling your story is your single most powerful advantage.
Q: What makes your new book, Tell To Win, so special?
A: It can change your Monday. In fact, it can change every day both personally and professionally. Using the emotional propulsion of a powerful narrative or any of the core elements described in detail in the book can be a game-changer. Success and failure are millimeters apart. The ability to tell purposeful stories is in everyone’s DNA. Tell To Win tells you how to unleash it and power your success.