How to connect with clients, employees and leaders in todays cluttered, complex world? Use these storytelling principles to overcome information-struggles and contribute to a ‘better world’.
We live in a hype-era.
There is an ongoing stream of hypes over flooding us. We should market our content, convert our website visitors, excel our operations, ‘lean our projects’ and own our products… In itself not wrong, but more and more the essence of business is fading, diverting attention to things that are not the essence of our business.
In stead, all of these activities should lead to impact for businesses, its employees and even society. It should make sense. So creating value is what we should aim for. Making sure that the delta between ‘before’ and ‘after’ is positive, so it all makes sense.
In order to do this, there are 4 ways how storytelling can help you create business impact
1. Cut the bullsh*t. Stories help you to remove the clutter and focus on what matters most.
2. Create impact. Stories help making information understandable so it creates impact.
3. Get your story skills in order so you are able to grasp the benefits by engaging the people needed to create impact.
4. Make stuff actionable using stories so things really start happening.
1. Cut the bullsh*t
Cutting the bullsh*t in business adds lots of value. It forces you to get to the bottom line of what is important and helps you clarify the essence of your business. In my article “Cut the Bullshit thinking for a more effective business” I make the case for simplicity in dealing with complex topics, without ignoring the complexity.*
So, how to apply this?
When looking at stories, the three act structure is the universal way to understand how impactful stories work. The beauty of this that you can deal with allmost any complex business topic. Create a sharp three act structure for any subject.
Set up. When working on a strategy this should be ‘diagnose’, when working on a marketing campaign this should be about understanding the customer.
Confrontation. Also: Crunching the case. making sure you make the right decisions, and get your tactics in place.
Resolution. Get into action to set the identified actions in motion.
By applying this structure, you skip all the wasted energy of ineffective discussions and diverted focus on means in stead of goals.
* in our book ‘Cut the Bullsh*t Marketing’ we apply this thinking in a broader sense to Marketing.
2. Create impact
It is essential to ensure that information adds value. Well designed and organized information leads to better decisions, easier collaborations and less errors in normal processes.
The focus on impactful information creates business value because it leads to better decisions. If information is designed in a waythat decision makers can see the context, asses the impact and outcome of their decisions, better decisions are made, leading to better business outcomes. It also enables easier collaborations. If information is more targeted towards the various audiences within or across organizations, there is a better shared understanding and the outcome of collaborations is improved. Another benefit is that is leads to reduction of errors. Misunderstandings account for an impressive amount of hidden company costs, which easily can be reduced by ensuring that people understand information better.
A research study found US and UK employees are costing their employers $37 billion per year due to miscommunication and because they do not fully understand their jobs. In general it found that on average businesses with 10,000 employees are each losing $6.2 million annually, that’s $620 per employee.
We are overloaded with information. There is so much data that we start to lose oversight and are not capable anymore to filter it into the right form to distill knowledge. Stories are different. Information presented as stories let you emotionally connect and at the same time let you focus on the essence of the underlying information. Good crafted stories infuse you with the essence of a certain topic.
So how to make information more impactful?
Use our story canvas to structure your story (leave your e-mail in the comments and I will send it to you)
Use storytelling tools to capture the audience: storytelling tools normally used in filmmaking can be easily adapted to be used in organizational context. For an overview see the slides of this World IA day talk.
Use innovative formats and experiment. There are lots of great tools and technologies out there that make it very easy to experiment with all kind of formats and deliveries.
Storytelling tools, adopted from WIAD presentation Mark Geljon and Joost Schrickx
3. Improve your storytelling capabilities
Storytelling capabilities help a lot in being more effective both as a leader and as a professional. getting others to connect to your vision is essential nowadays and the key capabilities help you in doing that.
Having storytelling capabilities creates business value because in todays organisations, information exchange is fragmented and chaotic. Stories can bring coherence to this and ensure that people are engaged and connected. Clients are better informed and engaged with the people doing client interaction. For example sales managers have a better connection while at the same time offer more value in their stories because of the shared information. Also it allows more people to take the stage. If people in the organization have better storytelling capabilities, it makes taking the stage easier and by that brings the effectiveness of information exchange to a higher level. Finally it helps to visualise the future. By illuminating the path forward leaders within the organisation can inspire and direct change to the better for the company.
How to spot and enhance storytelling capabilities?
Don’t see storytelling as some magic craft that only charismatic and inspiring leaders have, it is a capability that everyone in the organisation can learn, simply by being open for it. Even the more introvert experts in the organisation can be successful in this, simply by stepping up and doing it more in their day to day jobs. Remember that with the proper coaching and practice, everyone can give an inspiring TED talk…
Robin van Soolingen practicing for his first TEDx talk
4. Make stuff actionable
Actionable content is key in bringing the output of organisations to a higher level. If plans, strategies, visions and proposities are created with the intended action of the organisation in mind, the impact on the organisation is huge: People are more involved in the creation of the documents, since they are the ones who will be picking up the actions. People know what is expected of them and can see their contribution to the bigger picture. Also there is no time wasted since the action plans can tie in to the documents seamlessly
In current business there is a lot of inactionable content. It is key to translate this ‘fluff’ into stories where people can connect to. Think of a proposition that you want to introduce with a new client, a change program that will affect your employees or a strategy to convince shareholders. Stories force you to make this often complex document into understandable information where feel the opportunity, importance or issue.
So, how to improve the ‘actionability’ of content?
Visualize documents into clear roadmaps or overview maps by creating infographics.
Use Information Architecture structures in documents, so that the hierarchy of goals, means and actions is clear.
Validate content by turning it into a story. If you cannot create a storyline for e.g. the strategy, then the strategy might not make as much sense as expected.
Participants in the Effective Infographic course, using IA methods to structure their information into a visual story
What type of story will create the most impact for your organisation?
To conclude: storytelling offers lots of opportunities for boosting business impact within organisations. Improvements range from small ‘hacks’ that everyone can apply, to larger initiatives that require planning.
Tools are available to help you with this, think of the story canvas, the Bizz Story app and the storytelling tools from filmmaking.
Join me in discovering more ways to create business impact by applying storytelling principles. You can help by sending me examples where storytelling boosted business performance within your (or other) organisations.