Storytelling is Engagement

I’m not a particularly religious man, however Time Magazine, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated founder Henry Luce once said,

“We didn’t invent the idea of delivering news through stories about people. The Bible invented it.”

And frankly, he has a point.

Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done states that an easy way in which to begin changing an organization’s culture is by telling stories. I further posit that if we truly want to improve employee engagement, company productivity, future innovation, and customer satisfaction, organizations should ensure the culture of an organization surfaces and circulates both positive and not-so-positive stories into the conversation ecosystem.

Steve Dale also opines that storytelling is invaluable when it comes to knowledge sharing. To me, knowledge sharing is as synonymous with collaboration technologies as it is with storytelling in your organization.

Therefore, an easy math calculation suggests that storytelling + collaboration technologies = an engaged, productive, knowledgeable, learned and customer satisfied organization.

Is it that simple?

By flooding (or at least encouraging) the internal ecosystem of an organization with positive and not-so-positive stories, you will undoubtedly create a groundswell of cultural change. As the adage goes, “stories beget stories”.

A great example of storytelling affecting change in an external and positive light is via GlobalGiving, a charity organization that gives social entrepreneurs and non-profits from anywhere in the world a chance to raise the money that they need to improve their communities. Since 2002, GlobalGiving has raised $67,930,184 from 271,216 donors who have supported 5,829 projects.

But what this extraordinary organization has learned is that it can do even more good in this world if it developed what they call ‘better feedback loops’. Through the web, and open to anyone and everyone, GlobalGiving launched a Storytelling project to collect community feedback that assists in the decision making process, the learning process, and the information process as cycles of investment are positioned and made.

Since 2010 and specific to Kenya and Uganda initiatives, scribes have collected 40,600 stories from over 5,000 community members by asking a simple question: “tell us about a time when a person or an organization tried to change something in your community.”

Using the brilliance of Dave Snowden’s SenseMaker technology and the Cynefin framework, the stories get mined to assist in the process of providing funding and tangible solutions to their communities’ most pressing needs.

If stories are working to dramatically assist the very unfortunate in Kenya and Uganda, surely an organization can find ways to invoke the same opportunities inside their physical and virtual walls to help drive employee engagement, productivity, knowledge and customer satisfaction.


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6 comments on “Storytelling is Engagement”

  1. Storytelling gets people to invest emotionally, no matter how left-brained they are. I recently write a story on a startup’s journey – and it’s amazing how customers are coming back to say that they feel a part of the company after reading the story. And it’s not like we don’t talk to them – we talk products and features to them all the time. But telling a good honest story has got them to connect with us that wasn’t otherwise possible.

    Same thing goes for employees as well. Having a shared dream told in a story has just for got them together and made them so much more cohesive.

    Thanks for the article.

  2. One of our favourite experiences to do with an organization is to bring together groups of influencers and have them tell inspiring stories around the core values of the organization. We video the stories and create a mashup to share as part of the onboarding process. Here’s the extra step: it’s not only for onboarding new team members, it’s also used for new clients.

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Hey! I'd love to read what you think. Surely you have an opinion. Love, Dan.