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The Essentials of Business Storytelling

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There are some absolute basics you should get under your belt to make the most of business storytelling. This presentation sets the groundwork for business storytelling success.

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The Essentials of Business Storytelling

  1. 1. e Essentials ofBusiness Storytelling by Shawn Callahan
  2. 2. is is Pierre(or at least what I imagined helooked like).He’s the CFO of theworld’s largestinsurance company.In 2005 I foundmyself on thephone with Pierreteaching him theart of businessstorytelling.
  3. 3. e first phone callwas painful. No matterhow hard I triedPierre just wouldn’ttell me a story.He was so used togiving his opinion andthat was all he gaveme.
  4. 4. en in the informalchat at the end of ourconversation he toldme the story of his sontaking him to lunch toannounce he wasgetting married.With some excitementI said, “at’s a storyPierre.” He wassurprised it was sosimple.
  5. 5. In our secondphone call he toldme story aerstory.12 months later weheard that heopened his addressto staff with a storyand everyone wastalking about it.
  6. 6. Most peopledon’t thinkthey arestorytellers
  7. 7. Pierre didn’t
  8. 8. ey’d be wrong
  9. 9. 65% of the time we are speaking informally, we’re talking about who do did what to whom.* i.e. storytelling* Dunbar, R. (1996). Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution ofLanguage. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard UniversityPress.
  10. 10. It’s useful to view storytelling as a spectrum
  11. 11. Business peopleshould start wherethey are mostcomfortable, at thesmall ‘s’ end ofstorytelling. ey canthen inch their wayalong the storytellingspectrum.But don’t go too far.
  12. 12. Beware: No one wants to stumble into the uncanny valley of business storytelling Poor busine ssFor more on the uncanny valley of business storytellinghttp://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2011/01/the_uncanny_val.html
  13. 13. Beware: No one wants to stumble into the uncanny valley of business storytelling ard o H To r y ’t T on e. D i. Poor busine ssFor more on the uncanny valley of business storytellinghttp://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2011/01/the_uncanny_val.html
  14. 14. e first, andperhaps mostimportant,storytelling skill isthe ability tospot a story
  15. 15. Because ... you can’t get the benefits of telling stories unless you actually telling stories
  16. 16. Pop Quiz: Which one is a story?When one is vested with the role of a leader, Herb Kelleher [the longest-serving CEO ofhe inherits more freedom. e power of Southwest] once told someone, “I can teach youleadership endows him with rights to a the secret to running this airline in thirtygreater range of self-determination of his seconds. is is it: We are THE low-cost airline.own destiny. It is he who may determine the Once you understand that fact, you can make anywhat or the how and the when and the where decision about this company`s future as well as Iof important events. Yes, as with all rights, can.there is a commensurate, balancing group of “Here`s an example,” he said. “Tracy fromresponsibilities that impose upon his marketing comes into your office. She says herfreedom. e leader cannot avoid the act of surveys indicate that the passengers might enjoydetermining the what or the who or the a light entree on the Houston to Las Vegas flight.where. He cannot avoid being prepared to All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nicemake those determinations. He cannot avoid chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What dobeing prepared to make these terminations. you say?”He cannot avoid seeing to their e person stammered for a moment, so Kelleherimplementation. He cannot avoid living with responded: “You say, `Tracy, will adding thatthe consequences of his decisions on others chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fareand the demands these consequences impose airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because if iton him. Only time will prove the merit of his doesn’t help us become the unchallenged low-farestewardship. airline, we`re not serving any damn chicken salad.`”
  17. 17. Pop Quiz: Which one is a story?When one is vested with the role of a leader, Herb Kelleher [the longest-serving CEO ofhe inherits more freedom. e power of Southwest] once told someone, “I can teach youleadership endows him with rights to a the secret to running this airline in thirty ✓greater range of self-determination of his seconds. is is it: We are THE low-cost airline.own destiny. It is he who may determine the Once you understand that fact, you can make any ✗what or the how and the when and the where decision about this company`s future as well as Iof important events. Yes, as with all rights, can.there is a commensurate, balancing group of “Here`s an example,” he said. “Tracy fromresponsibilities that impose upon his marketing comes into your office. She says herfreedom. e leader cannot avoid the act of surveys indicate that the passengers might enjoydetermining the what or the who or the a light entree on the Houston to Las Vegas flight.where. He cannot avoid being prepared to All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nicemake those determinations. He cannot avoid chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What dobeing prepared to make these terminations. you say?”He cannot avoid seeing to their e person stammered for a moment, so Kelleherimplementation. He cannot avoid living with responded: “You say, `Tracy, will adding thatthe consequences of his decisions on others chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fareand the demands these consequences impose airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because if iton him. Only time will prove the merit of his doesn’t help us become the unchallenged low-farestewardship. airline, we`re not serving any damn chicken salad.`”
  18. 18. Four things to look for to spot a story
  19. 19. Time Marker
  20. 20. Time MarkersWhen one is vested with the role of a leader, Herb Kelleher [the longest-serving CEO ofhe inherits more freedom. e power of Southwest] once told someone, “I can teach youleadership endows him with rights to a the secret to running this airline in thirtygreater range of self-determination of his seconds. is is it: We are THE low-cost airline.own destiny. It is he who may determine the Once you understand that fact, you can make anywhat or the how and the when and the where decision about this company`s future as well as Iof important events. Yes, as with all rights, can.there is a commensurate, balancing group of “Here`s an example,” he said. “Tracy fromresponsibilities that impose upon his marketing comes into your office. She says herfreedom. e leader cannot avoid the act of surveys indicate that the passengers might enjoydetermining the what or the who or the a light entree on the Houston to Las Vegas flight.where. He cannot avoid being prepared to All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nicemake those determinations. He cannot avoid chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What dobeing prepared to make these terminations. you say?”He cannot avoid seeing to their e person stammered for a moment, so Kelleherimplementation. He cannot avoid living with responded: “You say, `Tracy, will adding thatthe consequences of his decisions on others chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fareand the demands these consequences impose airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because if iton him. Only time will prove the merit of his doesn’t help us become the unchallenged low-farestewardship. airline, we`re not serving any damn chicken salad.`”
  21. 21. Events
  22. 22. EventsWhen one is vested with the role of a leader, Herb Kelleher [the longest-serving CEO ofhe inherits more freedom. e power of Southwest] once (1) told someone, “I can teachleadership endows him with rights to a you the secret to running this airline in thirtygreater range of self-determination of his seconds. is is it: We are THE low-cost airline.own destiny. It is he who may determine the Once you understand that fact, you can make anywhat or the how and the when and the where decision about this company`s future as well as Iof important events. Yes, as with all rights, can.there is a commensurate, balancing group of (2) “Here`s an example,” he said. “Tracy fromresponsibilities that impose upon his marketing comes into your office. She says herfreedom. e leader cannot avoid the act of surveys indicate that the passengers might enjoydetermining the what or the who or the a light entree on the Houston to Las Vegas flight.where. He cannot avoid being prepared to All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nicemake those determinations. He cannot avoid chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What dobeing prepared to make these terminations. you say?”He cannot avoid seeing to their e person stammered for a moment, so Kelleherimplementation. He cannot avoid living with responded: “You say, `Tracy, will adding thatthe consequences of his decisions on others chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fareand the demands these consequences impose airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because if iton him. Only time will prove the merit of his doesn’t help us become the unchallenged low-farestewardship. airline, we`re not serving any damn chicken salad.`”
  23. 23. People
  24. 24. PeopleWhen one is vested with the role of a leader, Herb Kelleher [the longest-serving CEO ofhe inherits more freedom. e power of Southwest] once told someone, “I can teach youleadership endows him with rights to a the secret to running this airline in thirtygreater range of self-determination of his seconds. is is it: We are THE low-cost airline.own destiny. It is he who may determine the Once you understand that fact, you can make anywhat or the how and the when and the where decision about this company`s future as well as Iof important events. Yes, as with all rights, can.there is a commensurate, balancing group of “Here`s an example,” he said. “Tracy fromresponsibilities that impose upon his marketing comes into your office. She says herfreedom. e leader cannot avoid the act of surveys indicate that the passengers might enjoydetermining the what or the who or the a light entree on the Houston to Las Vegas flight.where. He cannot avoid being prepared to All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nicemake those determinations. He cannot avoid chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What dobeing prepared to make these terminations. you say?”He cannot avoid seeing to their e person stammered for a moment, so Kelleherimplementation. He cannot avoid living with responded: “You say, `Tracy, will adding thatthe consequences of his decisions on others chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fareand the demands these consequences impose airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because if iton him. Only time will prove the merit of his doesn’t help us become the unchallenged low-farestewardship. airline, we`re not serving any damn chicken salad.`”
  25. 25. You can see it happening
  26. 26. Seeing it happeningWhen one is vested with the role of a leader, Herb Kelleher [the longest-serving CEO ofhe inherits more freedom. e power of Southwest] once told someone, “I can teach youleadership endows him with rights to a the secret to running this airline in thirtygreater range of self-determination of his seconds. is is it: We are THE low-cost airline.own destiny. It is he who may determine the Once you understand that fact, you can make anywhat or the how and the when and the where decision about this company`s future as well as Iof important events. Yes, as with all rights, can.there is a commensurate, balancing group of “Here`s an example,” he said. “Tracy fromresponsibilities that impose upon his marketing comes into your office. She says herfreedom. e leader cannot avoid the act of surveys indicate that the passengers might enjoydetermining the what or the who or the a light entree on the Houston to Las Vegas flight.where. He cannot avoid being prepared to All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nicemake those determinations. He cannot avoid chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What dobeing prepared to make these terminations. you say?”He cannot avoid seeing to their e person stammered for a moment, so Kelleherimplementation. He cannot avoid living with responded: “You say, `Tracy, will adding thatthe consequences of his decisions on others chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fareand the demands these consequences impose airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because if iton him. Only time will prove the merit of his doesn’t help us become the unchallenged low-farestewardship. airline, we`re not serving any damn chicken salad.`”
  27. 27. We’ve built a web site to help build your story spotting skills
  28. 28. http://thestorytest.com
  29. 29. It’s difficult tofind a story whenyou need it.It’s better to buildyour story banknow for whenyou need it later.
  30. 30. ere are lots oftypes of stories totell that areimportant forbusiness, such as:Who am I storiesI’m like you storiesStrategic stories But the simplestLearning stories advice for beginners is to make a point, tell aand more ... story illustrating that point, then give your reasons, and then reiterate your point.
  31. 31. If you would like to learn more, why not comealong to one of our one day public workshops.http://www.anecdote.com/public-workshops

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