One of the biggest failings in modern business is our collective loss of the art of storytelling. Either we see it as a waste of time, or we feel that we’re above needing it to understand what we’re trying to achieve.
As humans, we seem wired in a way that draws us towards a good story. Since people have been been using language to communicate, we’ve been using story to entertain and educate; my family favourite ancient story is the story of Gilgamesh . In business we’re constantly trying to convince those around us, why we should be changing what we do today; we use visual aids, mockups and the dreaded PowerPoint. We use these as ways to replace story and try bulldoze our points across.
We tend to reserve storytelling for those success stories, communicating the change and the benefit becomes easier as we’ve able to communicate a lived experience. What we forget is that the truly successful people around us are able to communicate the possible, the future, and often in story.
Working with a colleague, I was recently reminded of the value of story and how, with a simple and personal narrative, we can take those around us on the journey of education to the destination we want, helping them visualise and see the benefit of change. This then becomes a common narrative that takes on a life of it’s own.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain
Now I’m shocking in telling a story, ask my my kids! But what is true about a good story, like a good letter, is that it takes a lot of effort to make a rough idea into something that starts to make sense to a wider audience. Those of us who have areas of specialisation or extra knowledge, can tend to dwell on unnecessary detail, detail that distracts those without that same background. Knowing what your story is about and sharing the story, testing it and refining it, allows it to become something that a wider audience understands and can relate to.
As I look into the power of storytelling, there are loads of resources out there to help:
- TED talks on Storytelling
- Loads of sites to help you dissect story
- Other publications on story telling in business
This is something I’ll continue to work on, but I’m looking forward to getting better at communicating the future to those around me and why change.