In our last best practice example, we introduced Diamond Aircraft to you. The masters of the sky not only develop innovative small aircraft, they are also true masters of storytelling.
Today, we would like to take a closer look at this “method”. In reality, it is the most natural way to share, entertain or convey knowledge. The talent for storytelling is inherent in each of us. After all, we hear stories throughout our lives and unconsciously absorb them. Why is it so difficult to tie up with good stories, then?
Maybe it is because we are used to convincing with facts and sales arguments in business communication. Telling a story – perhaps in a casual chat tone – seems almost unnatural to us. And that’s already the crux of the matter. Constructed stories often lack a crucial ingredient: enthusiasm.
Of course, the stories in business have the purpose of selling, winning customers for a company or their loyalty. But a good story makes the customer forget that. It touches his emotions, immerses him in the story and becomes receptive to the actual message.
The message forms the core of the story. Get to the point in a sentence for yourself, even if it does not have to be part of the story later, or should be at all. “Show don’t tell” is the motto. The message is conveyed solely by telling the story and is so much more credible than any claim “Our product xy makes your work so much easier.”
In principle, it can also be worthwhile to compare the message with the perception of the customers or employees. Do not impose your opinion on your customers, but look at what they think. Here is an example from an article in the Havard Business Review.
In this example, the team is of the opinion that making mistakes would not be an option. A fatal attitude. After all, mistakes (firstly) can hardly be avoided – demotivation and frustration would therefore be inevitable. Second, mistakes can also trigger a positive development. Strictly speaking, it is the things that do not run optimally that have always been the basis of inventions and innovations. The message therefore starts with the misinterpretation of the employees and postulates “failure is actually the grandfather of success”.
And the hero of this story is not you! Please do not get this wrong. Of course, you can tell what you have experienced from your point of view, which is even good because it is authentic. But keep in mind that the main character of your story should arouse sympathy. Successful guys who always get things right, who put up with every setback as if they were made of steel … Well, they are not very good as a role model. They are far too far away from our self-image as to identify with them. And according to Jonah Sachs, author of “Winning the Story Wars”, that’s the reason why we love to hear stories – because they reinforce our belief in ourselves.
So show people who have flaws and mistakes, who stumble and get up again. Some of the greatest storytellers of our time – Pixar – have some rules that make good stories. Number 1 is “You admire a character for trying more than for her or his successes.” Even if the hero’s plan doesn’t work out and he fails, he has won our sympathy on the way there. We wish him success because we like him and will continue to follow him.
Success stories dominate the business world, after all, we want to learn from them. But keep in mind that the hero’s problems and challenges should be part of the story so that it is authentic. Show the way out of the crisis. The brilliant idea that made the breakthrough. The lesson you learned from a major life event.
A strong conflict also gives rise to strong motivation. Do not forget how difficult situations get everyone to pull together. We all experienced this ourselves a short time ago and were surprised at the degree of solidarity in the face of Corona.
Here the devil is in the details, or rather in too many details. Don’t build too much around the core of the story, because it distracts from the message and prevents the stories from being anchored in our heads. Conversely, well-chosen and vivid details do exactly that: They will be memorized and ensure that we perceive a story as something unique.
As a little exercise, if you want, think of film scenes that you will never be able to get out of your head. The box of chocolates that Forrest Gump hands around on the park bench is such a detail. On top of this it perfectly sums up one of the film’s messages.
You never know what you’re gonna get in life … But it is precisely these surprises that create moving stories.