Many of us were first introduced to business storytelling as one technique in the knowledge management ‘toolkit’. KM guru David Gurteen calls it a ‘key ingredient’ for a range of organisational activities, from training to innovation. Stories enable us to unite ideas with emotional engagement, but in order for them to be really effective the story must have a clear meaning – and be relevant to your audience.
In an article on Openforum.com, Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith write about the ‘7 deadly sins of business storytelling’. They are the authors of a book about using social media to drive social change. The article actually focuses more on the do’s than the don’ts. The key elements of effective business storytelling are:
- Show don’t tell
- A story arc is better than strict chronological order
- No jargon!
- Focus on people, not things
- A real story – no invention!
- Include the problems – and the failures – in the story to increase engagement
- Encourage storytelling by all – employees, customers etc
In practice, organisations can take simple steps to develop a storytelling culture. The authors suggest you start a staff meeting with a story rather than a progress report and review the ‘about’ section on your website so that it includes more ‘narrative’.