The Business Stories We Should Tell

A compelling story is one of a company’s most powerful tools to motivate employees, build shared values, attract new employees, transmit key skills and convey a compelling brand message.  A corporate story could be a historical narrative, a rallying call or a common creed that connects all employees past, present and into the future.  Moreover, stories are often foundational in marketing communications and serve as building blocks for learning and planning activities.

Throughout history, stories have played a critical role in human development and interaction.  Every civilization have used their own unique narrative to provide meaning for individuals, foster group cohesion, act as a communication vehicle as well as serve as a roadmap to guide actions and behaviors.  Over time, there have been many examples of powerful narratives that have influenced hundreds of millions of people. For example, the ancient Greeks used mythology to teach morality and ethics while the founders of the United State used stories to articulate their manifest destiny.

Not surprisingly, many of the World’s most successful firms like Goldman Sachs, P&G, Walmart and HP leverage stories to perpetuate their cultures, inculcate new hires & acquisitions, speak to prospects & suppliers and improve competitiveness through an emphasis on core values like customer satisfaction and innovation.  Famous brands like Apple and Harley Davidson have strategically used interesting narratives to cultivate large brand communities.  Strong brand communities drive early adoption of new products, provide crucial consumer research and deliver ancillary services like support.

Why are stories such a powerful cultural and communication tool?

Stories tap emotional drivers

As demonstrated through the ages, compelling stories are an excellent way to create emotional and spiritual connections given that they tap into powerful social, cultural and psychological drivers.  As a result, meaningful stories are more likely to trigger behavioral change than merely one-off, calls to action. 

Stories are an elegant communication media

A story that is easy to understand and is seen as authentic and compelling will resonate quickly with the largest possible audience, both internally and externally to the firm. On the other hand, another ‘me-too’ mission and vision statement is often easy to forget.

Stories are memorable

We are hard-wired to remember rich, well-articulated stories and images as opposed to facts and figures presented in a Powerpoint deck.

Each organization has the content and obligation to create its own story.  This narrative could be based on one or a combination of the following drivers:  a unique culture, the corporate history, the personal identity of the founder, or a unifying creed.  The most successful stories (and companies) often combine a variety of these drivers in their narrative and include some of the following characteristics:

Leverage universal themes

Powerful stories embrace common cultural, historical and religious themes that are familiar to all.  For example, people will engage quicker when the organization is seen to overcome adversity or is catalyzed by conflict.

Make it personal

Strong narratives foster relevance, build emotional ties and overcome cynicism by establishing personal, almost spiritual connections between the company and individual, transcending products, profits etc.

Keep it very interesting but believable

To motivate employees and customers, your story must be able to hold interest and remain fresh yet not generate disbelief and skepticism.

Creating and codifying your firm’s story is not a simple task.  Company’s would be best served by working with a facilitator or story-teller who could help tease out the content and then craft a compelling narrative.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.


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