The desire to shape and share stories is carved into our DNA. So much so that the tremendous writer / director / producer Brian McDonald makes a compelling case that stories not only entertain us, but sustain & protect us.
As for business stories, I suspect these became the cornerstone of successful commerce back when a creative caveman hung out a stone shingle and started grunting about the merits of his new-fangled “wheel”.
Today, wise execs and entrepreneurs use well-crafted narratives to motivate staff, engage clients, and (often) better their bottom lines. They understand that from Solomon to Spielberg the world’s great storytellers are the folks who enjoy the greatest influence in society.
Curiously, however, when asked to explain what sets their company apart, many business people still fall back on mission statements and insubstantial words such as “excellence", “cutting edge” and “commitment".
The errors these people make are two-fold. First, they tell us what they are doing rather than why they are doing it. Second, they don’t appreciate the difference between showing & telling; they are dealing in messages rather than trading in stories.
Messages 'tell'; they convey basic information that, no matter how loudly or convincingly it is delivered, comes across as unbelievable. Stories on the other hand 'show'. They allow us to believe to the point of imagining ourselves inside an unfolding narrative.
This willing suspension of disbelief is what happens when you read a good book or watch a terrific movie. As the starship zips through space, the panda bear talks, or the secret agent peels off his computer-generated face and then zip-lines to safety, the story remains perfectly and wonderfully believable.
As for great organizational stories, these allow prospective customers to establish a relationship: feeling themselves driving the new car; seeing those new shoes on their feet; hearing a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ from someone they just met at the front desk.
So whether you’re Elon Musk or that brave guy I met who opened a barbershop during the pandemic, it is the daring & determination that went into building and maintaining your business that other people want to hear about, and want to be a part of. That’s the story that will resonate with others. Why? Because it's entertaining and important.