This article was originally published in Business Matters, the leading online business magazine. Click here to see the original article
Once upon a time… stories were something that began with once upon a time. They were mostly for children. Or for entertainment.
But then a few years ago, businesses began to cotton on to the power of stories.
Simon Sinek in his great TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action talked about how businesses that are adept at articulating their purpose – why they exist, what they believe in – appeal directly to the limbic part of our brain, which is the part that controls decision-making and behaviour. He cited Apple as an example, explaining that Apple doesn’t talk about its computers or try to convince us that they are good or have great features. Instead they talk about the fact that they believe in challenging the status quo and doing things differently. And, on this basis, people are happy to buy computers from them, phones from them, even watches from them because we share the same ethos.
Great leaders today need to be great storytellers. These are the leaders who inspire us to follow them because we want to not because we have to because there is a sign on their door that says Chief, Head or Director. These types of leaders inspire their staff to go the extra mile for them and organisations with this type of leadership ethos engender loyalty and commitment from their end users.
Whatever the nature of your business or organisation, telling stories will enable you to connect with end users in a way that appeals straight to the “feeling” part of the brain – the part that makes decisions. It will articulate your beliefs and values in a way that engenders greater connection and loyalty amongst staff and end users. And it will shift your narrative from the dry language of business to the richer language of common humanity and shared purpose.
I have helped some of the largest organisations in the UK to tell their stories and I believe there are a number of key components that make a truly great business story. This is my storytelling top 10:
Most businesses and organisations have a wealth of wonderful untold stories.
Uncovering this rich seam of gold can strengthen your organisation by illustrating the difference you make and showcasing your values and beliefs in action. Stories allow you to share best practice and inspire others through the work you are doing. On a practical level, they provide an important source of new content for websites, social media and trade or consumer articles.
In business, stories don’t start with Once Upon a Time but they can grip the imagination like the archetypal fairytales of old and you can convey a powerful message that will inspire readers in a way that plain old marketing copy can never hope to do.
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