Effective “Inception” Requires a Mastery of Storytelling

Why we gave “Inception” with DiCaprio two thumbs up!

“I specialize in a very specific type of security. Subconscious security.” Since movies have been made, we’ve never seen something quite like Christopher Nolan’s cerebral yet hugely enjoyable 2010 film Inception, and we’ll probably never see anything like it again. This endures as a film that elevated originality and creativity all while taking its foundational ideas from textbook facts about dreams and the subconscious mind. Of course the film took creative liberties when it comes to the brain, but post-viewing, audiences pondered the idea that the subconscious rules all.

Led by Leonardo DiCaprio, the mission of the “dream team” is to implant an idea in a rival character’s subconscious that will influence the rest of his decisions and result in the breaking apart of his business empire. It’s one simple thought, whittled down to one sentence. When meeting with a client you’re more or less attempting to do the same thing; implanting a positive idea about your business to affect their business decisions, because it all comes back to one thing: the subconscious rules all. Stories inform emotions, emotions inform actions. We all have a conscious brain, what we are actively thinking about now, and a subconscious brain, stuff that is going on beneath the surface. Our conscious brain methodically deals in facts and figures and can process only up to 9 things at a time while our subconscious brain is a messy composite of deeply influential experiences and emotions, processing millions of ideas simultaneously.  Thinking in stories, the subconscious brain moves with lightning speed and serves information up to our conscious brains on its own terms. Now this is both fascinating and frightening as we realize that the subconscious could be a great enabler and deciding factor.

The “dream team” in Inception knows this, so they hold a meeting and essentially Story Gather. Harnessing thorough research, they identify what story they will tell to the rival character and what story he will tell himself, therefore activating his subconscious and causing a small idea to grow. They need to sell this idea; you want to sell your product or concept. They turn a business concept or product into an emotional idea through the information that is available. Because our subconscious rules, how can you make the final quarter push to harness this knowledge?  You want to use stories because you’re dealing with the subconscious brain, which is the decision maker.

Psychologists used to use a famous drawing to explain feelings and action, called the Event Feeling Action Cycle. Now we have discovered the powerful truth that what is really happening is, as an event occurs our fast subconscious brain crafts a story based upon all the relevant data stored under the surface, the same place our dreams come from.  This story is served up to the conscious brain and subsequently makes us feel one way or another. Based upon our feelings, we take action based upon our biased Story, whether factual or not. What I store is what I thought I experienced. Another person could experience the same thing yet interpret it differently; nonetheless we are both biased by our subconscious brain and how we relate this event to the rest of our shared Stories. Effective “inception” requires a mastery of storytelling; knowing which stories to use and knowing what story the client tells themselves. What story will spark emotions in their subconscious, which is the thing that truly drives them?