A world of distraction: If there’s a word that describes the human collective mental state in 2018 it’s DISTRACTED.
2012 was the year that smartphone penetration passed 50% in the United States. Global penetration will pass 50% this year. The social media phenomenon, riding on the back of that smartphone wave, has caused a digital connectivity explosion.
Unfortunately, it’s also created a raft of social problems. Rises in pedestrian road deaths, teenage suicides, fake news, political polarisation and extreme politics are just some of the social issues that correlate precisely with the rise of electronic connectivity.
Businesses are finding it harder, not easier, to get their message out; to connect with their clients and to differentiate themselves from their competition. Each new digital communication channel; email, text messaging, video message, social media … is progressively drowned out with noise and spam. We’re overwhelmed and distracted — drowning in opinion, facts, assertion and fake news.
And it’s getting worse as technological progress accelerates.
What can we do about it?
Storytelling is the answer
The solution is connection through storytelling. We learnt as children that stories are unpredictable and interesting, so we pay attention when we hear a story start! It’s deeper than that, our brain’s natural language is created from sequences of repeating patterns from our senses. We are wired to continuously predict the next sequence in a pattern and to learn new repeating patterns. Interesting stories, by definition, are unpredictable sequences of events that our brain wants to learn from.
In business we’ve become disconnected from our most fundamental communication tool — the storytelling tool that created our civilisations. Collecting and telling your personal and company’s key stories is the way to re-connect authentically with your market and increase communication effectiveness.
In fact, our love of stories hasn’t changed and it will always be there. We still love a good movie, we binge watch TV mini-series, novels are as popular as ever, and some of us happily construct entire story worlds through computer games.
We have obstacles to overcome.
If storytelling was considered ‘un-business-like’ ten years ago, today it seems that everything is a ‘story’. That’s not true, everything is not a story, effective and relevant stories are rare. Most people don’t recognise stories or even know what a story technically is. We feel a good story in our chest but we can easily fail to connect that feeling with story.
The best business storytellers are often the company founders. Unfortunately, when their skill is unconscious, the good storytelling stops with them. And yet, it’s critically important that your entire team possess the capability to not only identify a story from non-story but also deliver stories effectively. This is the communications differentiator you must have.
Most stories are banal, barely rising above the level of everyday gossip, effective stories take effort to craft and hone and your company has unique powerful stories — if you know how to find them. A small number of well-crafted stories is sufficient to power a revolution—let alone a business. The task is to find and hone your best stories.
The final obstacle is telling your stories well and in the right context. Your business stories only have impact when they make a relevant business point. That takes training and practice. We all have habits of conversation and most do not have the habit of storytelling, and it takes a regime of repeated practice over time to instil new conversation habits.
If you haven’t noticed the power of business storytelling you may wish to experience some examples. Here is an article that breaks down Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall presentation to reveal its story structure. (The perceptive reader may have noticed that this whitepaper follows the same structure.)
Business storytelling is not just for presentations, it’s also about concise 2-3-minute anecdotes that can be delivered in everyday customer conversations. You can listen to examples of different business anecdote types in this YouTube playlist. Pay attention to the company story example. Every company‘s story is unique and interesting. Done well, your company story is your strategy story influencing and leading customers, partners and employees alike.
Imagine if your entire team could tell these stories with conviction?
Your plan for a storytelling success
Your company success depends on solving important problems for your clients with repeatable solutions. Being able to effectively explain your solutions is the key to sustainable competitive advantage. Storytelling is the key that unlocks that advantage.
The past, present and future of human communication and education is storytelling. Our human nature is defined in our stories. That is how it’s always been and that’s how it always will be — for as long as there are humans.
You too can create a team of storytellers and transform your business relationships, solution relevance, and customer satisfaction.
Why not give your entire team the storytelling superpower?
Here is the plan to get you there.
- Hire a story master to help seek out and craft a few of your best stories. Typically, this takes a day or two of consulting work.
- Get the team together and teach them storytelling. Solicit opinions on the key company stories and run a story challenge to expose more company stories. Storytelling workshops also take a day or two.
- Review and refine the stories garnered from the team workshop. Post them in your new story library so the entire team can access them. (Your marketing department is a good owner of the story library).
- Coach each team member until they are all confident storytellers. Video messaging is a good tool for this coaching. A few minutes per week over a few months is enough to instil the storytelling habit.
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