I once had a sales manager who hated software product evaluations because they failed to deliver what they promised: a logical way of choosing a product.

For example, let’s say that a company is trying to decide between using Microsoft Office and Google Docs. The first thing that upper management might do is organize a task force–a fancy way of making a boring committee sound sexy. The committee…err task force…creates a list of requirements and then evaluates each product against them. Theoretically, all the task force needs to do is tally up the check marks and declare a winner.

But theory and reality rarely align. Milt explained that this type of analysis inevitably ends in a tie because each product will satisfy most of the requirements. Therefore, with no clear winner, the task force must figure out a way to break the tie. How do they do it? According to Milt, the most common way is to add a new column called “intangibles,” that may have items like this:

  • Do we need to retrain our staff?
  • Must we change the way we do things?
  • How much effort will it take to convert our old files into the new format?

Milt understood that all purchases (B2B or B2C) are made on emotion and justified with logic. We like the way a new car makes us feel. We resist change. We’ve had great food at greasy spoons and mediocre ones at expensive restaurants. We live for the intangible aspect of our lives.

Storytellers are intangibles experts. They understand that major plot swings pivot on the tiny nuances instead of the biggest of facts. Intangibles cause listeners to think differently about a subject. They deliver more meaning than we expected. Intangibles pull listeners into a story because the majority of the human experience is spent in the fuzzy margins as opposed to the crisp letters of a page.

Storytellers seek intangibles. Which ones are waiting to be discovered in your story?


Photo Credit:
Harris & Ewing, photographer. [Man Using Microscope in Laboratory]. [1936] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,