Stories matter in business. Surprised? Well you shouldn’t be. Stories have always been an important part of how we connect and engage on a human level. Likewise, good business stories don’t just persuade, they add clarity to what we do and why we do it. Sharing a colorful picture of how what you do plays a role in the life transformations of real people on the other side of the globe can be truly fulfilling.
Effective storytelling enables people both outside and within an organization to get connected to people whose lives have improved through technology. Business stories may be more modest than the pageantry of Gone With the Wind, yet in their own right they can be quite powerful.
Stories like those inspired by the Adarsh Credit Co-operative and Compartamos Banco capture deep insight into real people whose lives have been forever changed by technology – and the vision of their daily life made simpler is wonderful to see.
Julie Roehm, Chief Storyteller at SAP, believes that companies are harnessing the power of storytelling to build audiences, convey the essence of their brands, and showcase their value to customers. Julie note´s that, “a great story is a great story no matter how you tell it – but the key is to get back to basics.”
Here are a few ideas on how to create as well as elicit good storytelling:
Get the story – Ask questions that help people more easily show you what they do. Instead of asking what someone’s team does, ask for an example about why they love their job. You might go from an answer like, “We respond to requests for customer references,” to, “Thanks to our references, we recently got a call from a customer who had no idea that our mobile solution helped people living in remote parts of Africa and India do their banking.”
Make a connection – In this age of digital screens and instant gratification we only have a few seconds to make a connection. There is little time for marketing-speak or business jargon. Bridging the gap between two people can often best be accomplished with storytelling. Rather than listing facts about what your company brand represents, make a connection with a story your listener can relate to: “Undaunted by the long odds of owning a business, Elizabeth Diaz Flores started selling her own handmade items from a cart on a dusty street corner. With charm and perseverance something magical began to happen – subsequently the offer for Elizabeth to join the local Compartamos Group changed her life forever.”
Storytelling needn’t take the form of a blog. 2,500 years ago Socrates said that the oral tradition of telling stories was the best way for raw emotion to be passed through time. When hearing a good story, people are more likely to experience heightened empathy and a sense of getting lost in the world of the story.
Much of what we are about today centers on the same life-enriching storytelling traditions that spanned a multiplicity of cultures and centuries – from the cave painters of Lascaux over 17,000 years ago to Morgan Freeman narrating “March of the Penguins” in a Hollywood movie.
What you accomplish in your work is quite remarkable and has a greater purpose that is meant to enlighten and be shared.
So what’s your story?