and from time to time they permit themselves to be told (stories)
“The world is full of stories, and from time to time they permit themselves to be told …”
An aboriginal saying
I believe that the magic and power of a story can encourage and fascinate you.
In prehistory, outside the cave it was dark, but inside they had a fire and somebody was good at telling stories. Every time I write, I think of the cave.
We are one group, outside it’s dark and wolves are howling, but I have a story to tell.
Ok. While I sometimes believe the whole ‘storytelling’ topic has take on some fairly absurd dimensions in business (and fortune cookie wisdom advice), I will admit it’s difficult to discuss stories too often.
The fact is that being able to tell a story, okay, tell the story you want is possibly one of the most important skills anyone can have – in life or in business.
Let me stay on the business side of stories.
Throughout my career I have had the fortune to work with the most unglamorous consumer and B2B products & companies you could ever think of <industrial products, commodity like machinery, etc.> and some fairly glamourous products & companies. What they all have in common is that they have a story to tell and when told well it makes them successful — in sales, in market place positioning, in competitive scenarios, in public discussions, etc.
I used to think storytelling was so natural to everyone I assumed everyone would want to tell their story, or maybe better said, talk about their business, their company, their product, as a story.
I no longer think that.
I haven’t figured out if it is that not everyone can actually tell a good story, or, that business has beaten the shit out of people so badly that the default articulation is a list of functional features and pragmatic benefits. What I do know is that business storytelling, in general, sucks. It is absolutely horrible.
Meaningless metaphors and less-than-relevant analogies and misused quotes are scattered among the useful functional and pragmatic in the attempt to elevate that which is usefully boring to interestingly useful. And because that is the case most people either think storytelling is really really hard or that storytelling really has no place in what they are doing.
That is nuts.
The truth is you can take the most boring of boring, the most functional of functional & most ‘seemingly same of seemingly same’ and wrap it within a story and it … well … becomes compelling, interesting and distinct.
The truth is any business contains the essential parts to create a story … heroes, villains, vivid demonstrations or metaphors, life & death and even mysteries and solutions.
The truth is anyone can tell a story <it is possible that not everyone can write a story though>.
In fact I feel relatively confident is stating that a good story to tell makes everyone better & more interesting.
I do not care what industry you work within or what type of product or service you sell or represent your word is full of stories and, most likely, a fabulous story just asking for permission to be told.
All that said. Someone is most likely sitting somewhere scratching their head thinking … “WTF, that sounds good but I have no clue what to do.”
You do know what to do.
Stop thinking about selling your idea or selling your product/service or even selling your company, think about telling a story.
I could work for a nuts & bolts manufacturer and be able to put a picture of two nuts & bolts side by side <one mine and one someone else’s> which look 99.9% exactly the same … and be able to say … “Let me tell you a story about this nut & bolt … because its story is different than this nut & bolt. They look the same but their story is different.”
And my story wouldn’t be solely some manufacturing mumbo jumbo, but rather a story about who counted on it and how my nut & bolt was the best friend to someone and … well … you get the point.
Unfortunately we don’t seem to be in the storytelling business in business these days <although we sure do talk about it a shitload>. Instead we bore down on manufacturing specifications, stress quotients, side by side rankings and a whole bunch of technically important functional aspects.
And you know what?
That shit is important.
What I argue is HOW the technical aspects are articulated and delivered. What I argue is that if I can make my nuts & bolts look like a city of ideas through some story … I win.
Stories make presentations more interesting.
Stories make bland functional aspects take on some color <which equals value>.
Stories persuade people think <and thinking equals engagement>.
Stories to motivate us to see beyond the simple nut & bolt.
On a parallel path, suffice it to say, what you say is lost, if you do not master how you say the story. Yeah. It just becomes a bland list of words cobbled together.
Storytelling has been a mainstay of the marketing world since forever. And while it tries to sneak into the non-marketing aspects of the business world it often gets stiff armed by functional communicators – “get to the point” people.
This ‘get to the point’ point is nonsense.
Storytelling doesn’t sacrifice the functional and pragmatic and practical … it actually elevates it to ts highest value. I could argue that stories are the essential driver of value, change & persuasion … throughout the history of business.
Look. I would never tell a business to not show the numbers, graphs and facts. It is important.
But strategic use of a good story can make those same bland things surprise people, make them become compelling characters in a story and instead of being cold hard facts laying on a page they can become things that make us think & feel.
Story telling is important in that it engages people, communicates relevant meaningful information, builds value on some things that can often be difficult to build value on and, ultimately, it makes you, your product or service & your company distinct.
Why? Because it has a story to tell.
The business world is full of stories, and from time to time they permit themselves to be told …