Are You Developing a Storytelling Culture?
Remember when we went to bed at night and our parents told us bedtime stories? Or how about when we meet up at the local coffee/beer house on Monday morning and regale our friends and co-workers with the weekend’s wild activities. Then there’s the recap from our kids on their big play at the game, match or tournament. These are the stories we grew up with, live by and yearn for because we are a storytelling culture. Great stories keep us glued to our mobile devices via social media such as You Tube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Great stories keep us ordering from Amazon, downloading from Hulu and showing up at the local movie miniplex and playhouse. Storytelling unifies us and gives us a shared experience which channels emotions, memory and sharing. So then, why have we forgotten to tell our stories in the workplace and use them to help us deliver a great pitch?
The Why Behind Your Story
All businesses have stories; whether you’re a start-up, non-profit, small business or large corporation. All too often however, stories are shelved because we have forgotten to include them into our operational DNA. Great story telling lives far beyond an ad campaign and slick marketing strategy. I’m talking about storytelling from within an organization from head to toe that taps into the “why” more than the “what.” Why do you do what you do? Why did you choose to start this new company? Why have you stayed with this non-profit for 15 years? “Why” is intriguing and forges a deeper understanding and connectivity. When is the last time you or your leaders asked “why?” This path can help lead to a much deeper discussion that can uncover great gems which form the roots for terrific storytelling throughout you organization, no matter how small or large. An outgrowth of this process is also the ability for your entire organization to deliver a meaningful and memorable “pitch.”
The Structure Of Your Story
I’ve heard many of teams and individuals I work with tell me, “I’m not a good story teller.” To which I say, “WRONG!” Much of the time, people confuse structure and form with content. We have all grown up with the basics of story telling. From the bedtime stories, through school, through entertainment. They all follow the same basic formula which is rooted in Freytag’s Pyramid. This simple storytelling foundation has existed for thousands of years and is comprised of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and a dénouement—or final outcome. In business, this can be accompanied by the formula of: problem, solution, fit, unique value proposition & differentiator. Weaving these elements together helps form a good story that also serves as a “pitch.” Once the structure is formed, you and your team members are freed up to explore their own stories.
Authenticity Feeds The Fire
Investors will tell you they invest in people, not ideas. Why? There is simply no shortage of great ideas; but finding people to execute is a commodity. Now, let’s equate that to storytelling. There’s no shortage of great stories, but finding organizations who tell them well and consistently is a commodity. To begin this process, you have to clear away the noise and distractions keeping you and your organization from taking time to connect to their stories. Providing an authentic opportunity for this to happen is a great starting point. Perhaps it’s an internal organizational challenge or forum. Maybe it starts one to one. Whatever the approach, it has to start with leadership and their willingness to share their story. In his article, The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool, Harrison Monarth says it perfectly, “Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”