Last week I talked about the power of stories and how to structure engaging stories to capture the heart and minds of the recipients. As far back as our ancient ancestors, the way in which we communicate is through stories, in fact meaningful communication can only happen through the creation of messages through stories. So, it makes sense that we apply the same concept when it comes to communicating the greater meaning of our business. Every business has a story to tell, and for it to be engaging and meaningful, it needs to get the emotional buy-in of the people hearing the story, it needs to take the recipient on a journey. The business world is full of well-meaning but boring and uninspiring mission statements. No matter how much thought and passion has gone into creating a mission statement, it just doesn’t capture the attention of recipients as well as a story does.
Think of the story of how Steve Jobs started Apple in his parents’ garage as a young 20-year old. To generate the $1,350 in capital they used to start Apple, Stevesold his Volkswagen car and his partner Steve Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard calculator. Hearing about the founders of Apple from their humble beginnings and how they grew their business from the ground up to the multi-billion-dollar company it is today, despite the challenges along the way, is truly captivating. It’s this story that underpins their entire philosophy and culture and keeps audiences the world over engaged in their brand.
A story provides a powerful way to engage my audience, so how do I turn my message into a captivating story?
All stories fall into a structure, a format. In order to take people on an engaging journey, you need to have a premise, core conflict, tension and a turning point. This formula, if done well, will create a compelling story that captures the attention and connects on a deeper level than a mission statement ever can.
Let’s look at each component in turn and see how it can be applied.
Premise is really the belief or the overall message we want to convey. For example, a bank may have the premise that “the population needs to have access to financial security”. The premise for a inviersity might be “we educate the people of today to grapple with the challenges humanity faces of tomorrow”, a business in the health industry could have the premise “ people have a right to live a healthy life”.
Core conflicts are those tensions or challenges that businesses face that are usually internal/ experienced within the organization. A common core conflict would be long-term goals vs short term goals. How can we fix the problems of the here and now whilst investing in the long-term future of the business? Another common conflict is speed vs cost vs quality. This conflict provides a constant tension in most organizations. Another universal core conflict for business is having limitedresources yet having unlimited places to use resources. The tension happens when leaders of a business try to come to an agreement on how to allocate the limited resources. Another common tension is the need to be predictable vs the need to adapt. And the list goes on.
The tension are those challenges that arise that are external to the orgnisation. For example, changes to the industry in which a business operates, changes to technology, changes to the competitive environment, changes to government regulations.
The turning point happens when the leaders come to an understanding, a decision is reached moment. It happens when we learn to respond to the tension and when each person is able to take responsibly. The turning point happens when an organisation can balance their core conflicts, address them and can read the market quicker. The turning point of a story is not so much the answer, it’s the resolution to move forward to the next level.
A compelling story can be made by a business by stringing some of these together, but not all of them at once, otherwise they will overwhelm and you will lose the simplicity of the story and your recipients will lose interest and become disengaged.
Let’s create a story for a financial institution, as an example:
Premise may be Australians will do well to have an increased financial security. The core conflict is that we need to be predictable in providing certainty to our shareholders, customers and employees alike. But we also need to be adaptable, to respond to changes in our environment to stay relevant.
Get in touch today. I’d love to help!