Storytelling for Business

by Nick Owen

Sharing information

This type of story is excellent for disseminating information or knowledge and to promote new ways of thinking or doing.

Requirements

  • It can be positive or negative.
  • Edit, edit, edit: be succinct.
  • Bring the content into sharp focus so that the key learning points stand out.
  • Stress the human side, not just the information or task.
  • Include a clear explanation.
  • Tell the story within a clear context.
  • It doesn’t have to be a ‘good’ story: the focus is on the information or process.
  • Link the specific details of the story to wider more universal processes: what are the common patterns?
  • Frame these stories carefully so as not to offend people (for instance those trapped in just one way of doing things, often referred to as ‘experts’).
Tip

One powerful way of working with stories of this type is to create an informal atmosphere – for example, with your audience sitting in a circle. Tell your information sharing story, and then invite others to share their similar experiences triggered by the story.

According to engineers, invention is the birth of an idea. Innovation occurs only when the idea is developed into a prototype that can be put into active service. Innovation is the life-blood of organisations, yet it is a precious, delicate flower, often stamped out of existence in pragmatic cultures. One way of helping to develop an innovative culture is to ask what is essential to the consumer – in other words, what can we produce that the consumer actually wants?

Example

In the 1980s, the circus industry was in crisis. The different organisations were in a fierce battle to attract the diminishing customer base. Margins were squeezed; prices were low, and circus owners were competing to attract the best clowns, the best lion tamers, the best acrobats and so on. Same old, same old ...

Guy Laliberté, a Canadian stilt walker and fire-eater, had other ideas. He looked at the excitement and thrills the circus could offer and the sophistication and high revenue streams that mainstream theatre could provide. The result was Cirque du Soleil: thrills, excitement, high calibre performance, creativity, quality entertainment and no exploitation of live beasts – yet at West End or Manhattan prices. As a result, Cirque du Soleil has made higher profits in less than 20 years than Barnum and Bailey and Bertram Mills made in a century.

Value innovation makes the traditional competition irrelevant. It produces a completely new concept and leaves the others chasing behind.