The tough side of business storytelling

Posted by Mark Schenk - September 23, 2011
Filed in Business storytelling, Leadership, Strategic clarity

Steve Jobs introduced iCloud at Apple’s WorldWide Developers Conference in June 2011 . iCloud is Apple’s ‘next big thing’. After explaining the iCloud concept, Steve says, “Now, you might ask ‘why should I believe them – they’re the ones that brought me MobileMe?’” The audience laughs uproariously. Everyone in the audience knows that MobileMe is pretty much the opposite of Apple’s reputation for user-friendliness. It just doesn’t work. Steve continues. “It wasn’t our finest hour. Let me just say that. But we’ve learned a lot.”

Acknowledging an uncomfortable truth goes a long way to removing its power. If everyone knows the story, ignoring it increases it power. Tackling these anti-stories (the stories in your organisation that work against your strategy) is vital.

But there is a downside of ‘running down’ MobileMe. There are many people in apple who have invested a lot of their energy and enthusiasm into MobileMe and hearing this public admission is probably uncomfortable or even painful for them. For this reason, most organisational communication overlooks the negatives and avoids risking upsetting anyone. The resultant messages have a ‘pollyanna’ feel to them that undermine their credibility.

We are working with many organisations to develop their strategic stories and find one of our key roles is helping them find and maintain the courage to say the tough things. Kevin and I are writing a paper on this at the moment reflecting on the lessons of our projects in the past few years. We’ll blog about it when we finish.

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