People buy from people they like and people buy from people like them.
This was brought home again to me last week when an email turned up out of the blue that started;
“It came as a surprise, on checking out your website, to discover you have not one bona fide storyteller among the names and faces placed there. Determining whether a story is a good one or not is subjective, so no doubt you can do that adequately. Still, in actually ‘teaching’ storytelling who do you draw upon?“
Now I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t exactly feeling a lot of love towards the sender at this point. One of the things we pride ourselves on here at Anecdote is teaching business storytelling by telling stories. We have blogged and tweeted about this very concept a number of times over the last few years. We believe passionately in the concept of ‘show don’t tell’. In this context that means not just telling people our opinions or views or making bold statements about business storytelling and its the benefits, but actually showing them those benefits by sharing stories. Therefore to be told we don’t have “one bona fide storyteller” in Anecdote kind of grated.
Now in reading further down the email and finding out more about the sender, we realised they were coming from the Big ‘S’ end of the storytelling spectrum, while we are focussed on the small ‘s’ end (to read more about this concept check out his blog post). Knowing this put their comments in context, they were just defining what a ‘storyteller’ was in different terms than we do, and in fact we had far more in common than we did have differences.
Robert Cialdini in his seminal work on influence and persuasion Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion lists ‘Liking’ as one of his 6 principles of influence. He argues, backed up by fifty years of research, that there are three major routes to liking: similarities, compliments, and cooperative endeavors (working together towards a common goal).
The writer of the is email had the opportunity to play into at least two of these aspects. They could have started talking about our similarities and the things we had in common. They could have then go on to talk about our common goals (i.e telling, and getting people to tell, stories). They could have even completed the trifecta by complimenting us on something about our website or our blog. And they could have made all of these things far more memorable and far more impactful if they were told as stories, or included stories. But instead of starting with the things that we had in common, and that connected us, they lead with the differences we had.
This approach failed to build connection. It failed to build rapport. And ultimately it failed in the senders objective to try and sell us their services.
People buy from people they like, and people like them and stories can play a huge role in creating those connections. We focus a lot in our new Storytelling for Sales Program about how you can use stories to do exactly that. To find out more about the program please contact us.
Last Thursday, I met an executive encountering some significant challenges in a major culture change underway in his organisation. He had been inspired to use a story-based approach to help get traction.
He was keen to meet as he had some questions around the components of the story he was preparing to write. He had read Peter Guber’s book ‘Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story’, and was planning to use the challenge-struggle-resolution structure described in it. He also needed to decide who would be the hero in the story: the company, a product, a staff member or himself.
If you are working in an organisation and struggling with similar questions then I give you the same advice as I gave him…
Not next week, not tomorrow. Now! Tear it up, throw it in the bin.
Most times I have seen leaders use similar approaches it has been a disaster and the change initiative has been set back. These sorts of structures are great for professionals (authors, script writers etc) but mostly come across as BS when used by amateurs. Some exceptional leaders, who are expert raconteurs can get away with it, but not the majority of us. We live in the land of business reality, not in Hollywood. There is no place for poor fiction in business storytelling.
Amateurs fall into the uncanny valley of business storytelling.
Please spare yourself and your change initiative from this fate.
Amateurs need simple structures and authentic examples. An occasional analogy can be used as well. Simple structures are the story spine or even simpler is the structure below:
- In the past…
- Then something happened…
- So now…
- And in the future…
Effective business storytelling is non-fiction: authentic and honest. Leave fiction to the experts.
We’ve been privileged to have had the opportunity to run our workshops right around the globe, but we don’t get the chance to do it quite as often as we’d like.
So, to reach out to a broader audience, we thought it would be worthwhile to offer a version of our popular [Storytelling for Leaders](http://www.anecdote.com/storytelling-program.php) workshop online as a webinar.
We’re hoping you can join us for this webinar to see how working with stories can help you and your leaders to influence, build engagement and inspire people to take action.
You’ll get to spend 75 minutes with Shawn Callahan, Founder and Director of Anecdote, where he’ll share some of his experiences and what he’s learnt from working with some of the world’s top companies such as IBM, Shell, AMP and KPMG developing their storytelling and leadership capabilities.
The webinar will teach you how to tap into the power of storytelling in three ways:
1. Communication – how to get your message to stick
2. Influence and persuasion – how to change behaviour
3. Insight and empowerment – how to understand what’s really going on
It will be interactive, with a mixture of presentations scattered with the opportunity for questions and answers to address your challenges.
Tickets for this webinar are A$129 which also includes the first module (*Continuing to build your story-spotting skills*) from our Storytelling for Leaders [Deliberate Practice Program](http://www.anecdote.com/storytelling-dpp.php).
We’re doing this webinar twice, one timed for North America and the other for the Europe. Just click on the link of the webinar you want to attend and fill in your details.
» [Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | 9:00 AM – 10:15 AM AEDT (for Nth America)](http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5238801396)
» [Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM AEDT (for Europe)](http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5239419244)
We look forward to ‘seeing you’ online.
Joseph Jiminez joined Novartis in 2007 as Head of Consumer Health, in charge of the over the counter business. He had a background in consumer packaged goods was a complete novice to the pharmaceuticals industry. Six months later he was appointed to lead the pharmaceuticals division. He was an unlikely choice, neither a scientist nor a physician, but the company wanted somebody with a fresh perspective. They were facing what’s called a ‘patent cliff’ which occurs when a patent expires and generic drugs flood the market. In the Novartis case, the drug was Diovan (for high blood pressure) and in 2011/12 patents would expire reducing the revenue contribution from Diovan from 5 billion pa to 1 billion pa.
HBR published an article by Jimenez in its December 2012 issue, reflecting on how he went about averting the impact of the Diovan ‘patent cliff’. Jiminez went on to became CEO in 2010.
At this stage I’d ask you to put aside any negative views you have regarding profit generation in the pharmaceuticals industry and look at this article for its business lessons.
One of the key lessons identified by Jiminez was the need for a fresh view – in this case it was provided by Jiminez himself. There is no doubt that a fresh perspective is extremely valuable. But don’t just look for an outsider to come in and solve all your problems. As Jim Collins pointed out in Good to Great, 10 of the 11 CEOs of the ‘great’ companies came from within the organisation. And if you are looking for a fresh perspective, try a story listening approach by collecting examples from within your organisation and taking decision makers through a sensemaking process. The insights from this process are often significant. We wrote a whitepaper about using story-based approaches to create insight back in 2011.
Jiminez also identified one of the common patterns in organisations… “one of the key problems in transforming organisations is creating a culture where people are comfortable to speak up”. Jimenez points out that it took considerable effort to make people throughout the company comfortable telling him what they really thought and that this was a significant part of this success.
The article finishes “it takes a great team aligned around a common purpose to work through the challenges and deliver this.” Great advice, but definitely much easier said than done.
We’ve just released tickets for our [Storytelling for Leaders](http://www.anecdote.com/storytelling-program.php) program in Canberra on Friday, 15th February 2013.
Tickets for this workshop are $695, which includes our [Deliberate Practice Program](http://www.anecdote.com/storytelling-dpp.php) valued at $420, and is fully catered.
We haven’t run one of these public workshops in Canberra for a couple of years, so now’s your chance. Get in early, tickets will sell quickly.
I’m just reading the Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever. I’m at the chapter on storytelling and LeFever opens with two ways to describe a blog.
A blog is a personal journal published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order to the most recent post appears first. Blogs are usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often themed on a single subject.
— Wikipedia, 2012
Meet Allison. She recently created a website where she posts information about her experiences raising a puppy. Her website is an online journal, or blog, where she posts a new entry that appears at the top of her page every few days. This stream of entries has enabled her to connect with dog lovers from around the world.
He makes the point that both contain the same information but do it in quite different ways. The former being fact telling. The latter, story telling.
I like the idea LeFever is making but his example of a story is not quite a story. It is missing a vital element.
Here is an alternative that contains the missing element. Can you pick the difference?
In 2006 David Maister, an expert in professional service firms, started his blog (short for web-log). A blog is like an online journal. David would share his thoughts day-by-day, with his latest ideas appearing at the top of the page. He also encouraged his readers, like me, to leave comments.
As I was just starting my business I thought I would email David seeking his help. He called me from Boston the next day and to my utter surprise he said he would waive his high fees because he now thought of me as a friend after reading my online comments on his blog.
A story must have something unanticipated in it. Enough for you to exclaim, Oh! that’s interesting. Something needs to happen that is unexpected (though not necessarily alarming). A story needs to have a time or place marker, things happening, and something unexpected. Of course great stories are made of much more than that, but these are the things that need to be at a story’s core.
LeFever’s example starts out like a story, … she recently created a website (time marker). But what follows is merely a description.
As Mallary Jean Tenore beautifully puts it in a recent Poynton article, “A story is a promise that the end is worth waiting for.”
I see many story practitioners defining stories by saying things like, “the protagonist needs to have a challenge.” I’m afraid these types of definitions have been overly influenced by Big S storytelling and the Hero’s Journey. There are many stories that don’t adhere to the ‘challenge’ definition. Take a coincidence story for example.
A few years ago I took my family on a road trip from Canberra to Perth and back, about 8000 km return. On the return leg we pulled into Eucla, pitched our tent and I walked over to the petrol station to buy some milk. In the petrol station was Allan Fox, a dear friend who was in Eucla for 2 days to photograph the amazing sand dunes there. The chances of us meeting in such a remote place must have been a million to one.
This is definitely a story but I wouldn’t say the protagonist had any challenges to overcome. Things happened and something unanticipated happened. And, by the way, experience tells me that people love coincidence stories.
Those who claim to have narrative intelligence, but don’t, confuse those who are new to storytelling into thinking that a story can be a description, or that a story needs to involve a hero’s journey. It is impossible to develop narrative intelligence unless we first understand what a story is, and only then can we truly take advantage of storytelling.
Just be reading the transcript of Oprah’s interview with disgraced drug cheat, Lance Armstrong and was intrigued by how even he keep using the term ‘story’ and ‘narrative’ throughout the interview.
Here are a couple of examples;
Armstrong admits he was a “bully” because he tried to “control the narrative”.
“The story was so perfect for so long … It’s just this mythic perfect story and it wasn’t true.”
Read more about the interview here.
One of the other reasons why you don’t want to turn your storytelling into a performance is explained in this post I wrote on the Uncanny Valley.
We’re excited to announce that we’ll be running a series of public workshops in early 2013, kicking off with our [Storytelling for Leaders](http://www.anecdote.com/storytelling-program.php) program in Melbourne on Wednesday, 13th February 2013.
Tickets for this workshop are only $695 and all attendees will automatically receive a free [Deliberate Practice Program](http://www.anecdote.com/storytelling-dpp.php) valued at $420.
There are only six places available, so you’ll need to be quick.