Stories are the lifeblood of business- ignore at your own risk

Image Credit Anders Jilden

Image Credit Anders Jilden

Happy Halloween! 

Welcome to week three of story-geddon where we offer some challenging perspectives to help you leverage the power of story in business.

You are living your own story. As am I. You chose to work where you work because you believe in the story of that company, best case. Worst case it fits into your personal story and supports it.

When a founder of a new company comes up with an idea, she does it because she detects that something is missing.

She creates something to fill the gap. Something she would find useful.

Briand and Joe were struggling to make rent in San Francisco. So, they rented out some space on their floor when a conference was in town. They made rent, and then some. Then they packaged up the idea and pitched it as Airbnb. The rest is history.

The same goes for internal efforts. Company culture for example.

Satya Nadella took a floundering Microsoft and famously invoked Peter Drucker by saying:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Look at Microsoft now. It’s arguably a turnaround story. Look, there ‘story’ goes again.

What makes up a culture? The stories we tell.

When our corporate culture espouses respect and truth, we are on the path to creating a safe and productive environment.

By telling the stories of those in our companies who represent the values we want to live by we are using story-doing to be intentional to fuel a positive culture.

Sticking with Microsoft. Each year there is mandatory compliance training, as with all big companies.

One-year Microsoft took the story of ex-employee Brian Jorgenson and put it front and center.

They even had him on video talking about the FBI raiding his home as he played with his children.

It was gripping and horrifying. We all talked about it:

“Wow, best compliance training ever.”

The story made the training. Massive kudos to whoever led that effort.

No one reads all the rules and regulations. But they do tell stories, good and bad, of other employees.

Leadership should embrace this.

You can either stumble around using storytelling accidentally, or you can intentionally pursue it and build the muscle to put it to work for your company.

From compliance training to changing corporate culture to getting investors onboard stories are at the center of it all.

For Example: When we were working on a recent client project, building out their marketing materials, we started with their story. We always do. We spent time capturing and drawing out the founder’s narrative and why she had started the business. The industry they are competing in is very technical and matter-of-fact. By capturing her story, we could use that as a filter across all the marketing materials. The result is a cohesion across everything from printed brochures to the website and how her sales team talk to the customer. As a result, they rise above the homogenous noise and grab their customer’s attention. If you’d like to know more about this company and their success let me know and we can chat.

Matthew Woodget