How (not) to spin a good yarn

Many of us were first introduced to business storytelling as one technique in the knowledge management 'toolkit'.  KM guru David Gurteen calls it a 'key ingredient' for a range of organisational activities, from training to innovation.  Stories enable us to unite ideas with emotional engagement, but in order for them to be really effective the story must have a clear meaning - and be relevant to your audience.In an article on, Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith write about the ‘7 deadly sins of business storytelling'.    They are the authors of a book about using social media to drive social change.   The article actually focuses more on the do's than the don'ts.  The key elements of effective business storytelling are:

  • Show don't tell
  • A story arc is better than strict chronological order
  • No jargon! 
  • Focus on people, not things
  • A real story - no invention!
  • Include the problems - and the failures - in the story to increase engagement
  • Encourage storytelling by all - employees, customers etc
In practice, organisations can take simple steps to develop a storytelling culture.  The authors suggest you start a staff meeting with a story rather than a progress report and review the 'about' section on your website so that it includes more 'narrative'.