3 Ways Storytelling Can Help You Get Innovation Right

400px-Millais_Boyhood_of_RaleighIn this blog we focus on using story as a thinking tool for innovation.  It is worth it to review why story is so important.

Many people talk about the power of story in leadership.   Steve Denning has written several books on the topic.   A leader with a good story can take country to new heights or horrible destruction.

If that leader can articulate a great vision of a better future, then people will follow willingly.

That vision, that story, are what allow people to push through long hours, discomfort, uncertainty—because they know that there is something better on the other side.

Leaders in successful companies understand this.

Maybe you’ve heard about a successful entrepreneur who was a master at telling the story about his grand vision.  The entrepreneur, who is trying to convince investors to put their money in to his efforts, rather than the thousands of other startups they’ve seen recently, understands the power of story.  The good ones can convince an investor that their company will be known all over the world and that they would be known as the fool who missed the next big thing if they pass up their chance to write a check now.

The act of turning the future you see in your head into a story has a lot of benefit.

Since we spend our time talking about innovation and product development, lets talk about if from that perspective.

If you are a leader and have an idea, a thought about what your company should do next, putting it into the form of a story can make a huge difference.

Here are some reasons why:

First, when an idea exists only in your head, it is easy to fudge the details.   Once you prepare to share an idea with others, it will have to pass a certain level of scrutiny.

“I have a new business model that is completely revolutionary!  No one in my industry has ever done it like this.  First, we will close all of our stores.

Then we’ll give our services away for free to our ten biggest customers for a year.”

“That’s great.  How will you make money in this new business model?”

“I have absolutely no idea.”

By putting your ideas and plans into a form that you can share with others, you will have to think it through much further. By creating the story, you have to think through the details.

Second, as you share that story, you will have your ideas tested.    If you’re willing to evolve your story, it may be better.   Just the act of describing your next product or service out loud, or on paper, may cause you to see it in a different light.

If you try to describe how the customer will use it, how you think it will fit into their life, the story might not sound realistic.

You might find yourself questioning you character’s motivation, wondering why they would bother with your product—rethinking

Once you have the story, you can test it.  Is this vision of the future a good idea?  Once you share it, people may have something to add or some valid criticism of that vision.

That can be your chance to fix that vision, or to improve it.

Third, by sharing a story, you allow people to put themselves into it.  They find their place in the new world you create.  They make it their own.

You get alignment around the story.  People become invested—especially if they feel like they are helping to create the story.  Once they make it their own, it has power beyond what you can do with it.

Focusing on the story will help you to think it through.  Sharing the story will help you get the details right.  Sharing it will help others participate in the story.

One thought on “3 Ways Storytelling Can Help You Get Innovation Right

  1. You jog a couple of ideas for me here…
    My son participates in a LARPing activity called Wayfinders, in which stories are written for the participants to play out. But the story is loose – and enables the story to morph. Adheres much to Jenkins notions of transmedia (world building) – which allows (and to follow up on what you’ve written) for others to insert themselves into the story. Stories can be crafted to more or less encourage listeners to join the story.

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