People often ask me what stories do. After all, it seems counterintuitive that something as simple as telling a story can have a profound impact on your business. In fact, learning to use stories effectively as a leader and as part of your organisation’s culture can help you to build trust, engage with your customers, innovate and inspire meaningful change. Here are some scenarios to give you a feel for how this story thing works.
Let’s say someone listens to a story you tell from your experience about why the work you are doing is important to you. This might be a customer or a colleague. As they hear this story, they identify with it. They may think of similar experiences they’ve had in their own life or times when they have felt like this too. They see you’re human, that you have things in common with them. They like and trust you a bit more than they did before. They remember this story more than anything else you said to them. Instead of resisting the ideas you have to share, they’re now much more open to supporting you.
Here’s another scenario. Let’s say your team listens to a customer’s story. The customer isn’t just giving you a score out of ten, they’re telling you exactly what happened during their customer experience, how it affected them and why they felt that way. As your team listens to the story, they identify with it. They start to empathise with the customer and understand their perspective more clearly. They start thinking of new ideas for how your team’s services can be tuned to meet the customer’s needs more effectively, or new ideas for products the customer would love, or ideas for ways you can collaborate. You’ve created a much more effective customer focus and you’ve stimulated innovation.
Now let’s say you tell your team a story about a real person who has actually succeeded with some aspect of digital transformation. Your team identifies with the person in this story. They like how the story turned out for that person. They learn from what that person did, and it gives them ideas and confidence about what they might be able to do for your organisation’s digital transformation. They start to put their new story into action. You’re on the road to meaningful change.
Do you see where we’re going with this? The stories create connection and generate insights, which can turn into ideas, which can turn into actions. The actions then generate new stories to start the cycle again.