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How Storytelling Can Help Your Company

IMG_0058Remember that creative writing class you took your senior year of college because you wanted an easy elective? It turns out that dusting off the notebook where you wrote about plots and characters might be a way to help you lead your company.

Organizational storytelling is slowly but surely becoming a hot strategy for conveying important information about your business, both internally and externally. It’s also found its way into the MBA world: The University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business in South Africahas recently announced it will be offering a class in the subject.

If you believe Steve Denning, other institutions will be sure to follow.

Denning, a former program director of knowledge management at The World Bank, has written books for Harvard Business Publishing and others on the subject.  He explained the power of organizational storytelling to The Skills Portal:

Charts leave listeners bemused. Prose remains unread. Dialogue is just too laborious and slow. Time after time, when faced with the task of persuading a group of managers or front-line staff in a large organization to get enthusiastic about a major change, storytelling is the only thing that works.

The benefits of storytelling

According to the article “UCT Business School to Teach the Grown-up Business of Storytelling,” here are a few things strong organizational stories can do for your company:

  • 1. Build trust and strengthen relationships
  • 2. Sustain a company’s culture during tough economic times
  • 3. Create unity by giving every department a common narrative
  • 4. Increase influence and lead more successfully

How Costco does it

So what’s an example of an organizational story? Costco has a fairly famous one, at least among its employees, detailing the five stages it went through to offer the perfect piece of salmon. Even when the quality improved in stage five, Costco kept the price the same. The story conveys key messages about the company, such as its commitments to quality and value. To ensure that the values exemplified in the story stay fresh in employees’ minds, Costco offers a Salmon Award to honor outstanding staff accomplishments.

Does your company engage in organizational storytelling? Have you seen any benefits from the practice?

Credit: Stacy Blackman – BNET