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Editor’s Note: Storytelling

"The way to educate people is to entertain them first.” So said Max Brooks, author and lecturer on military strategy, during his GSX+ Game Changer session, “Stranger than Fiction: Lessons from a Zombie Apocalypse and Beyond.”

Max Brooks knows how to tell a story. He also knows how to teach a lesson while doing it. Brooks is a senior fellow at the U.S. Modern War Institute at West Point, and his novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is on the reading list at the U.S. Naval War College because it illustrates real-life military tactics. “I have created credible scenarios in my books where only the threat is fictional, the response is factual. Therefore, they are metaphors for actual problems. They are teaching tools,” he said.

According to Brooks, this works because trying too hard to teach people trips their “ego defense mechanism, and that means you are going to piss people off, scare them away, or put them to sleep,” Brooks warned. “But, if you tell them an exciting story, take them on a journey, be their tour guide, they might get educated without even realizing it.”

Even a monster story can be an entry point into the way the world works, he noted, and the trappings of the story can help people learn. For example, his most recent book, Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre is a timely and terrifying story of an eco-village cut off from civilization after a volcanic eruption.

“My process starts with big questions. How do disasters play out?... I start with a horror novel. What scared me as a child? I was scared of Bigfoot. Take that vessel and pack it full of actual facts about science, technology, and disaster prep. Educate people about how fragile society is now in the face of a national disaster,” said Brooks in the session.

The fragility of society during a crisis is playing out in the real lives of security professionals. This means that those professionals also have a story to tell about the industry and its role in helping ensure that the world remains a safe place.

ASIS International also has a story—one that will unfold in 2021 as the association brings you the stories that provide context you need to meet future challenges. Part of that story is offering more digital, virtual, and hybrid opportunities so security professionals can learn, share, and grow wherever they are. (A good place to start for those holding GSX+ All Access registration is to return to the platform before the end of 2020 to watch the more than 100 educational sessions on demand.)

ASIS and the industry at large are adapting to existing threats and preparing for those on the horizon. World War Z talks about adapting to a new threat, said Brooks. “That’s the story of war. Whoever adapts, wins. Whoever says: ‘Oh our plan doesn’t work, our weapons were made for the last war, our soldiers need to be retrained, we need to rethink.’ That’s the winning strategy. If you do the same thing over and over again, you will lose,” said Brooks.

“I didn’t make that up,” he said. “I just zombified it.”