Storytelling: The Secret Weapon of Successful Intrapreneurs

I recently attended the Front End of Innovation 2016 Conference in Boston. There were some very thought provoking and compelling keynote speakers. From Alex Clay, author of The Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Informal Entrepreneurs to Frank Stephenson, Chief Design Officer at McLaren Automotive who talked about the importance biomimicry and the study of nature to inform design solutions for McLaren cars. One theme that I heard expressed by almost all of the presenters was the need to be a good storyteller. It’s almost a pre-requisite for innovation since so much of innovation is about change management.

At Brandtrust, we’re huge believers in the power of story and it’s the backbone of our research and strategy practice. We have so much experience in story and narrative theory that, now nearly 10 years ago, one our clients, a top Fortune 100 company, asked us to develop storytelling training for their company and now it’s one of our wonderful training tools.

Before you can become a good storyteller, you need the ingredients for a really good story. Cory Lommel and Jon Overlie from General Mills said it well: “The power in product development comes from the stories you hear from consumers and customers—it’s about empathy. People don’t exist on PowerPoint slides. You have to go out and meet them.” A key step here is to shift our focus from designing and selling a product, to starting with customers and designing meaningful experiences throughout their interaction and touch points with us.

Within our organizations, as “intrapreneurs” who champion ideas to build the future, we need to enroll our business partners along the journey. This requires a shift from selling to people, to influencing them up and across the organization. It also requires listening, empathy, and being open to improving and changing an idea. The big idea here is co-creation—to build a really great idea that gets successfully commercialized while simultaneously building relationships, so that stakeholders can hear their voice in it. The icing on the cake is being able to energize your organization through a really good story by painting a picture of the future that ignites passion and imagination to join you on the innovation journey.

Storytelling can help you become a better business leader and champion of ideas in your organization. To ignite the storyteller in you, we offer storytelling training workshops globally. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the science and art behind our approach to marketing a more emotional brand, we encourage you to explore BT University, our collection of conferences, podcasts, workshops and webinars. Please contact us for more information.

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