I remember reading the autobiography of Akio Morita, co-founder and former Chairman of Sony Corporation in college. Those were carefree days. Career goals and aspirations were just taking shape. However, Morita’s book – Made in Japan – left a deep impact on my mind and psyche. I was especially inspired by the story of how the founders came up with the name Sony and how the Walkman was invented.
I was a big fan of the Walkman in my teenage years, so to know the history behind this ‘portable music’ phenomenon was very interesting. The book gave tremendous insights into Japanese business philosophies and culture. How they treat people in the workplace and the concept of huge workplace families was one of the main highlights of the book.
I was motivated in many ways with several business ideas and concepts that have stayed with me to date. Storytelling is a powerful way to share experiences and motivate people and teams. It is often the most important tool to share a vision and bring about change.
Here are some ways in which you can use storytelling effectively in the context of business:
1. Use stories to sell action
When you want the buy-in of your audience for a certain process or plan of action, stories can be a powerful means of achieving it. Every story has three aspects to it: a beginning, middle and end. Generally, it is the middle that involves a course of action and overcoming of challenges to change the ending into a happy one. A good way of using a story to achieve what you want is to change the order of the three elements: show a not-so-happy beginning and a happier, desirable ending. Then show a middle that can lead to the desired outcome. This will help get audience buy-in.
2. Use stories to convince buyers
Sharing a story of how your product has helped certain consumers resolve issues or gain benefits will easily convince new consumers to buy your product. A live story with real characters has much more impact than a mere description of features coming from your side.
3. Use stories to motivate your team
Say for example that your team has been through a quarter of low performance and not meeting targets. You can actually call for a meeting or take them someplace nice and tell a story of how you struggled in the early days of the business to set it up and make it grow. Sharing your own failures and learnings can make you more human and act as a huge motivation for your team. Other stories of corporate success can also be shared.
4. Use stories to win trust
If you recruit new people or join a new organization in a leadership role, it often takes a while for people to trust you and build a rapport. Storytelling is very useful in such a context. Sharing stories from your past experience and asking people around you to share their stories will help to build bridges. Stories of challenges and failures show people that you are vulnerable too and stories of accomplishments build confidence.
5. Use stories to create a vision for your company
In the long run, storytelling can be an effective medium to build a shared vision for your company. Make your product or company the protagonist in such a story and make everyone participate in the storytelling session. Inclusive storytelling means the audience can contribute by sharing various endings they would wish to see for the protagonist. If the outcome is shared, it becomes easier to realize the vision.