Humans are constantly telling each other stories – around campfires, in lines at the grocery store, in novels, and in movies.
Stories help us to see order in a chaotic world and find meaning in our lives.
Stories connect us to the past so that we can understand how we fit into a larger experience and community.
Stories help us imagine what the future could be like.
The way that humans are inherently inspired and united by stories makes storytelling a very powerful tool. In fact, telling stories is one of the primary ways to create and influence a culture. This holds true for corporate culture as well.
Here’s an example of an uninspiring corporate story:
A long time ago founder of our company started building computers and selling them. Over time the company grew and today we sell lots of computers and phones. As an employee at our company, you can help us to sell even more computers and phones.
Here’s an example of the same company’s story, but told it in a much more compelling way:
The founder of our company dropped out of college in the 80’s to follow his radical dream of making a computer for the average person that was intuitive and fun to use. He and a small group of people literally started the business in a garage. The odds were stacked against them. They lacked money and business experience but still had the courage to compete against enormous competitors and challenge paradigms held by almost everyone in the technology industry. It was not easy, and the fledgling company had to overcome innumerable obstacles, but today it is one of the largest and most well-known companies in world. The company relentlessly pushes the envelope through innovation and challenges the status quo because it knows that its many highly capable competitors are desperate to steal any market share that they can. As an employee of our company, you will have the opportunity to help change the world.
The second story is far superior because like all good stories it has an intriguing plot and good characters. People in the organization can see how the company that they are working in progressed from where it began and how that transformation occurred. They can see how they fit into the story and can contribute to and help write the rest of the story. It is also important to note that the second story helps to demonstrate what the values and culture of the company is (innovation, risk-taking, perseverance, etc.).
So, what’s the story behind your organization, and why should others want to be part of it?