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ONCE UPON A TIME in a highly competitive market

INTO THE WOOD: Art of storytelling

Every business has a strategy. Part of that strategy will always be to communicate the key messages that underpin its hero products and services. Ok, true, these days there’s an argument that staff should come together to ‘hack’ strategy in real time, not hear about from the pulpit. That said wherever strategy emanates from, story-telling is key to stakeholder buy-in.

But while many businesses sign up to narrative-theory, not all practice what they preach. Usually, the strategy of a business is drawn up with the help of consultants. Although, as the virtual world continues to morph, the experts are predicting the demise of the expert. Predictions are rife that phenomena like Amazon’s Alexa could soon be answering the questions that the ubiquitous consultants have hitherto marshalled.

So, regardless of whether it’s an Alex or Alexa, the typical strategy doc covers pages of Venn diagrams and matrices, management speak and profound insights. While it’s comfort blanket as much as a guide for the management team, it will remain impenetrable to most of the wider internal audience. In business as in life, people need inspiration, clarity and, above all, brevity. So why do we throw the kitchen sink at them?

The simple answer is that it’s the default mode. Middle management fill their days with it. Senior leaders grew up with it. As senior leaders, they understand strategy and its granular detail, so assume that everyone else will ‘get it’. Secretly, they might hide behind that detail in the belief that knowledge is power. If you pile on the information, surely you can never be accused of leaving anything out? Surely, you can never be caught out?

There is a better way. For years now, go-ahead businesses have stopped drowning their people in detail. They’ve adopted storytelling as a powerful way of engaging hearts alongside minds. They’ve learnt to inspire imaginations, not test perseverance.

Because while few people enjoy information overload, every human being responds to a good story. Audiences love the unexpected. However cynical they are, people want to be engaged. Strategy is not enough. Great leaders bring their plans to life. With inspiring stories.

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