Storytelling shapes the way we speak innovation

Market Roadmaps build market stories around specific trends and strategies.

As a way to create human links between businesses, products and customers, leaders and innovation practitioners develop storytelling based strategies that are shaping new approach and messages sent to market. As business becomes slightly more personal, individuals are driven back at the heart of strategies and creativity, generating new innovation potential closely linked to emotions, although developed with technology. How does innovation use storytelling to shape new markets?

The human roots of storytelling

Words and emotions
Words and emotions

With all the data generated across devices, businesses, analytics cannot remain an endless series of facts and trends. As Gavin Heaton explains on his LinkedIn post, “But there are a few companies who are innovating on the edge and taking a different approach. For these companies, big data is just a means to an end. The real value is not in the data but in the capacity to tell stories with that data. It’s the realm of big narratives – and it is as exciting as it is terrifying.”

In fact, analysts and experts now know we are more impacted by stories than a series of speechless figures. This is the reason why storytelling is becoming so important with the rise of Big Data. As Rachell Gillett explains for FastCompany, “Numerous studies over the years have proven that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than the cold, hard facts.”

Building stories comes with an increasing call to lead as individuals and let our personality and behavior shape a message. What this message circulates is key to business value, as Lolly Daskal found out. As she writes on her blog, “Be yourself. As the saying goes, everyone else is taken. Don’t change to fit in, but seek out and develop your best qualities. We are what we pretend to be, so be careful about what you choose.”

As a result of rising storytelling methodologies and personal branding, talking about oneself as living examples has become an increasing image opportunity. As Anais Moutot writes about TED conferences in Les Echos, “It initially was an informal meet-up gathering tech-savvy, entertainment and design oriented people, created by an architect who wanted a littler bit more action in the Silicon Valley. Thirty years later, the tiny meet-up has turned itself into a worldwide conference factory.”

Because individuals are a complex universe of emotions, virality and message sharing necessarily involve triggering those emotional needs. Dante M. Pirouz, Allison R. Johnson and Matthew Thomson from the MIT have issued a paper suggesting that “One of the more successful papers on viral messages, which looked at forwarding behavior in viral email marketing campaigns, suggested that many emotions can play a role, including surprise, joy, sadness and fear. Another study looked at the sharing of New York Times articles and found that still other emotional responses, such as awe and anxiety, also predicted sharing.”

To analyze the complexity of our emotions, some experts call on technology to come up with a sentiment analysis reflecting the intent behind the words. And they claim there’s nothing wrong about it. As Dan Piepenbring explains for The Paris Review, “There are probably still writers who find that statement provocative. I don’t. It should be obvious to all writers that parts of “the craft” are deeply schematic; if you feel threatened by a machine, there’s probably something suspect about your humanism. ”

Humans are indeed a complex organic system, under chemical control of brain and emotions. This is the reason why stories are more effective in generating actions, as Brad Phillips highlights on Mr Media Training. In his view, “Given the importance of oxytocin to achieving your goals, perhaps we should stop telling our trainees to “tell stories” and advise them instead to “produce more oxytocin for the audience.”

In the end, what seems to matter most in that a link is being created between a person, and another person. This is Susanna Gebauer’s view in The Social MS. As she writes, “Most likely many of these stories are personal, or at least relate to a personal experience. Thats good. Personality is what makes your stories stand out from all the others, what makes you unique and unforgettable. These stories also are related to your business, they are real and they are there for you to use for free.”

Stories as a business, the emotional strategies ahead

Humans shaping stories
Humans shaping stories

Telling stories has therefore started to be a new form of business. In his article for NiemanLab, Joseph Lichterman explains how “Using the user data it’s collected, Upworthy found that elements like humor and a story structure that built in suspense would draw in readers and keep them on the page and better engaged. Since it was published on June 25, March’s story has received more than 2 million unique visitors.”

As such, storytelling has business repercussions, among which transparency and engagement with customers. Gary Hamel reports the words of his sister for HBR about sharing heartfelt stories in her hospital with patients and among teams. As Doctor Hamel says, “Beyond the improved satisfaction score, there was a clinical benefit. We are in the business of saving lives, of enhancing heath, of restoring hope. When we touch the hearts of our patients we create a healing relationship that generates a relaxation response, lowers the blood pressure, improves the happy neurotransmitters, reduces pain, and improves outcomes — for both the patient and the caregiver.”

If there is a business benefit, could we extend storytelling so it has an economic benefit? Alison Demeritt has conducted an in depth analysis for the World Economic Forum to find out. As she concludes, “expanding our understanding of the rich set of factors that influence decision-making can aid development efforts. Incorporating behavioural insights from psychology, sociology, and other sciences can help policymakers develop innovative and sometimes low-cost interventions that help people advance their goals and increase their well-being.”

From a marketing point of view, storytelling already has a significant impact. The new developments now come from branding entrepreneurs behind the product and ideas. As Michael Georgiou explains in Entrepreneur, “Customers are looking for more than just a product. They’re looking for a personable brand to buy from. This is why it has become extremely important for entrepreneurs to brand themselves, too. ”

Again, in a near future, machines will write their own stories based on algorithms and our ability to better know what emotions triggers business or economic actions. As Demian Farnworth writes for Copyblogger, “Machines can’t create a genre or writing style like gonzo journalism. They can only execute within a formula — a formula created by humans. That is, they aren’t creative in the true sense of the word. Which is where we need to focus.”

Words as a business asset

Words as a business
Words as a business

The words we use are an important factor in shaping the impact we want to see in the world. Louise Lee from Stanford Business highlights the work of Walter W Powell, who has analyzed the words used to by non-profits language. As he found out, “The phrase “social return on investment,” for example, draws on the discourses of the civil society and business areas; that and other phrases and terms that borrow from different communities create potential alternative ways to evaluate a nonprofit and its effectiveness.”

In a management area, storytelling creates an engaging atmosphere. As such, it enables team working and conversation rather than a one-way top down discourse that leaves individuals outside the idea and speak-up sphere. As John Coleman explains for HBR, “Creating an ethos of conversation, rather than a one-sided presentation, for critical discussions can better leverage the collective intelligence of the team, make solutions to organizational problems better and more comprehensive, and improve ownership for execution of ideas.”

Engaging teams in story making on top of storytelling is an important initial step to build stickiness and virality. Furthermore, it generates the internal creativity to build a story that only belongs to a single company, a key differentiator that bounds individuals to a group or project. To better develop emotional creativity, Business In Rhyme suggests to write poetry. As explained on the blog, “Halonen in his paper “Demystifying critical thinking”, (1995) states that poetry often contains unconventional language or unusual treatment of a topic. Surprise becomes a catalyst for critical thinking as the audience works to resolve subsequent feelings of disequilibrium.”

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