Through the ages children the world over have used storytelling and game playing to learn and develop knowledge and judgement. Yet in everyday business we see so little focus on its use to help make sense of the increasingly complex and interlinked world that we live in.
Latitude Research, who help clients create engaging content, software and technology that harness the possibilities of the Web, have just published phase 1 of their research on the ‘Future of Storytelling‘. The research aims to understand audiences’ evolving expectations around their everyday content experiences—with TV shows, movies, books, plot-driven video games, news, and even advertising. In summary it defines the ‘4 I’s’ of storytelling: Immersion; Interactivity; Integration; and Impact.
Whilst the research is primarily aimed at the creative industries there is potentially a lot that we can transition into the business world.
What sets the winners apart from the also ran’s is often their ability to articulate a proposition and bring people along with them. They bring the proposition to life and create a desire in the room for success.
Just think about a hypothetical scenario where two teams have been working on bidding a multi-billion complex opportunity each and they have to take it to the board for approval.
Team A take the approach of circulating prior to the meeting a traditional, weighty, factual pack which describes each aspect of the deal. This is of course what the corporate process mandates often.
They schedule their formal review meeting in a window-less meeting room where everyone sits around the table in their usual seats. The team present similar content to the pack but in the form of a presentation projected on the screen at the front and following the same order as the pack. When they get to the financials, they project the spreadsheet with the reviewers using a large paper version each.
Team B have their review a day latter and like Team A they have circulated the prescribed pack. They have the same room allocated, however, they have created ‘rich picture’ posters around the room describing visually the key elements of the lifecycle of the opportunity.
The presentation uses rich media (video clips, animation, and vignettes with key suppliers) to describe the opportunity and this is interspersed by using the posters and encouraging the reviewers to focus around them to understand each element. They create a rich and immersive story that isn’t told through the sections of the contractual documents or the corporately mandated process but in a way that brings it to life as it will unfold in reality.
When it comes to the financials, the team have created a financial model that allows each of the reviewers to adjust sliders for the key variables and see the impact of their actions. The model is used to interactively allow the reviewers to debate where they feel the key attributes sit and agree a concencus position.
How do we think that each review would go? If the bids have been well constructed they will be approved, but the experience will likely have been more challenging for Team A. Probably about 5 minutes into their presentation, the well rehearsed pitch will be derailed by one of the reviewers who has scan read the pack due to time constraints and has a burning question.
Team B will through the use of storytelling and game playing have probably found that they created a more engaging debate and will have been more successful in getting over a complex set of data and information.
Yet often in these kind of scenarios, teams are under time pressure and revert to the safe method of following the mandated process with traditional techniques. With a little bit of planning and imagination it is easy to create a different approach such as Team B. Articulation is increasingly important in the complex and interconnected world that we are in and therefore adequately equiping teams with the skills, resources, and imagination to see this a key element in the approvals process is key.
It’s the way that you tell ’em, after all.