The art of storytelling

‘If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.’ – Rudyard Kipling

When I walked in to work today morning, little did I know that I had an extremely long day ahead of me. One look at my mailbox and I knew that I would easily be clocking close to 14 hours at work. Yet, I took 3 hours out to attend a workshop on storytelling. I had to because storytelling is the single biggest weapon we have in our arsenal today. This versatile weapon does not only inspire and teach but also influences the biggest of business decisions.

Why is it that the one advice given to all young entrepreneurs when a approach a venture capitalist is not to present data or to have a crisp presentation, but to tell a compelling story. Adults and children alike have devoured stories for centuries now. Storytelling is the strongest way to leave a lasting impression on a memory. Emotions persuade and good stories have the power to make or break the biggest business decisions.

Leaders across the world and businesses share stories that are famous for changing the course of history. The best learning takeaways happen from these stories and they are the single biggest way to influence change and drive behavior. As professionals in the field of learning, we are constantly seeking new ways to make an impact and develop individuals. Storytelling is an old concept that we’ve still not abused like it should be.

Every great leader has a story bank. It is a well-curated mix of stories from great leaders across the world and generations, organization success and failures and more importantly, their own life. They know exactly when to tell which story. The wonderful part is that one must always be on a look out for an inspiring story and the repertoire of stories must be constantly purged and refreshed.

It is not just them. We all have stories that have inspired, taught and influenced; many from our own lives. However, content is not enough. A great storyteller must also master delivery. Articulation is key to storytelling. What is a story but truth well told? Truth that has the power to emotionally move a listener from point A to point B well weaved with metaphors and similes.

Lastly, it is important to celebrate success stories but more important to share the failures. Whether you use stories for employer branding, for learning in and out of classrooms or just development of individuals in your team, you must learn to be a great storyteller and groom future storytellers.

Every organization has a treasure trove of great stories within. These make a far greater impact that the stories we borrow from outside. Few companies like Volvo, Amazon and HP are on a constant search for these stories and encourage its employees to learn from them. Few companies let the stories die. It is important to tap into your organizational memory, draw out these gems, and get your employees to narrate them. There is no better way to learn.


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