The Sea We Swim In: How Stories Work in a Data-Driven World
A practical guide to "narrative thinking," and why it matters in a world defined by data.
In The Sea We Swim In, Frank Rose leads us to a new understanding of stories and their role in our lives. For decades, experts from many fields—psychologists, economists, advertising and marketing executives—failed to register the power of narrative. Scientists thought stories were frivolous. Economists were knee-deep in theory. Marketers just wanted to cut to the sales pitch. Yet stories, not reasoning, are the key to persuasion.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, stories determine how we view the world and our place in it. That means the tools of professional storytellers—character, world, detail, voice—can unlock a way of thinking that’s ideal for an age in which we don’t passively consume media but actively participate in it. Building on insights from cognitive psychology and neuroscience, Rose shows us how to see the world in narrative terms, not as a thesis to be argued or a pitch to be made but as a story to be told.
Leading brands and top entertainment professionals already understand the vast potential of storytelling. From Warby Parker to Mailchimp to The Walking Dead, Rose explains how they use stories to establish their identity and turn ordinary people into fans—and how you can do the same.
Praise for The Sea We Swim In: How Stories Work in a Data-Driven World
Terrifically readable, as compelling as the many successful stories and stories of success it tells.
— Brian Boyd, author of On the Origin of Stories
A master storyteller on the story of stories. Frank Rose deconstructs them expertly—how they make us pay attention, how they move us, and why we remember them. His eloquent toolkit will help us make our own stories more effective and avoid being buffeted by the strange modern sea of digital stories that surrounds us.
— David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect and founder of Techonomy
Frank Rose’s fascinating new book is an essential companion for our age—when narratives, no matter how incredible, produce real-world outcomes that defy all reason. The Sea We Swim In takes us systematically through the elements that create compelling stories and offers a practical guide both to creating powerful tales and to resisting the pull of the most dangerous.
— Rita McGrath, author of Seeing Around Corners and The End of Competitive Advantage
If you want to connect with customers—that is to say, with the audience for the experience you’ve created—Frank Rose shows not only that you have to think narratively, but how to go about it, element by element. And he wonderfully exemplifies his ideas, for his stories about storytelling are superbly written and expertly woven together. Read this book to be immersed in the sea of storytelling that’s so crucial to business success today.
— B. Joseph Pine II, coauthor of The Experience Economy and Authenticity
What a delightful read and a novel contribution. The Sea We Swim In is an essential master class in how to think about that next pitch you need to make, letter you want to write, speech you have to deliver, or anything else you hope will be persuasive. The right story can open up a person’s heart and change their mind far more effectively than an argument or set of data—and Frank Rose explains it all beautifully.
— Daniel J. Levitin, best-selling author of This Is Your Brain on Music and The Organized Mind
...[The Sea We Swim In is] a zingier version, then, of the post-Aristotelian story-theory books beloved of screenwriters, with a rich range of reference that takes in the novels of Gustave Flaubert as well as the twists of ABC's "Lost." But the analysis has a wider salience for anyone who consumes media. Given how much the storytelling paradigm informs everything around us today—including, perhaps especially, the news—it behooves citizens to understand it better.
— Steven Poole - Wall Street Journal