Workplace Communicator Blog

How to find the right stories for your company

Posted by Marie-Claire Ross on Mon, Oct 10, 2011

describe the imageTelling stories is a great way to create an emotional connection to information that gets people interested in what you are talking about, but more importantly helps them to remember your message.

Good leaders use corporate story-telling as a way to communicate the behaviour they require and how it needs to be done.  It puts knowledge into a framework that helps staff understand how they are supposed to act.

But the art of spotting the right company stories can be hard.  How do you know what stories to use?  And which stories work well in which context?

Well, the good news is that there are learning templates that have been created on how to find the right story.

According to Dan and Chip Heath, from Made to Stick, there are three basic plot lines to look out for.  These are: The Challenge Plot, the Connection Plot and the Creativity Plot.

The Challenge Plot

This is when the hero is up against an insurmountable challenge and wins.  Think David and Goliath, the story line in the Australian movie The Castle and Erin Brockovitch.

There are different types of Challenge Plot: rags to riches (think Cinderella) and the triumph of sheer willpower over adversity (think of a sports team that was doing badly that won the final).

The special quality of challenge plots is that they inspire us to act.  They encourage us to persevere and have courage in the face of adversity.

These story lines are ideal for companies that are doing it tough and need to rally the efforts of staff.  Look out for staff who have battled a major illness or family issue, but have done amazing things at work or in the community despite the setbacks.

The Connection Plot

Includes storylines where people develop a relationship, despite their differences such as race, class, religion or other.  Think Romeo and Juliet, Titanic and Avatar.

Connection plots are all about overcoming challenges and our relationships with other people.

Use these type of stories when working with overseas customers and to reduce racial hostility with staff.  Look out for stories that involve staff working together despite their differences.

The Creativity Plot

Another type of storyline that you can use to inspire the troops is the Creativity plot.  This involves a mental breakthrough, solving a puzzle or problem in an innovative way.

Think Macgyver or the apple that falls on Newton's head.

Creativity plots make us want to do something different and experiment with new approaches.

These type of stories are perfect for when you need to reinvent the company culture and you want to show staff a new type of thinking or way of doing things. Be on the look out for staff testing different approaches to reach company goals.  And use these examples as your stories.

Stories help people accept information in a non-judgmental way.  They are ideal to use if you know the information you need to tell will elicit denial and a possible angry response.  Or if nobody seems to care.

Done well they will create buy-in and springboard people to act.

To find the right company stories, you need to go out and find them.  Be open to them and you'll be surprised by what you might find.

Topics: corporate stories, company stories, communicating core values, corporate story-telling, video storytelling