Storytelling Skills for Innovators

August 13, 2018

Stories can entertain, advance ideas and values, win resources, and cut through media clutter.

But storytelling can also help organizations navigate treacherous waters. Our latest IL Master Class featured noted author Evan I. Schwartz, Director of Storytelling at Innosight, the growth strategy consulting firm.

Humans are evolutionarily hard-wired to tell stories, Schwartz says, having gathered together around the campfire for eons. “Stories are about holding the tribe together, forming alliances, connecting — but also envisioning the future. The equivalent [of the tribal campfire] in a company might be the whiteboard.”

But Schwartz says that storytelling can present a challenge for many organizations. “I have to say, it’s not very good out there. There aren’t too many organizations that are good at storytelling. There are exceptions, but I think the rule is that companies are challenged to tell their stories in an authentic way, and there’s a reason for that. They don’t like to show their flaws, and a character that you love is flawed. Think of some of the most popular characters on television. Tony Soprano has some anger issues. Walter White — pretty shady character. Organizations sometimes are reluctant to talk about the truth — which the outside world sees, by the way. It’s not like you’re hiding it.”

He shared his definition of a story: “An event that creates a meaningful change in the life situation of a character, expressed in terms of values, and achieved through conflict.” And Schwartz explained that companies can be characters, using examples from General Motors and the educational publisher Houghton-Mifflin in the webcast. Watch the full webcast for more information