by: Idris Mootee

We know all children love stories. Here's J.K. Rowling, unarguably the master story teller of this century.

When my kids were young they always loved stories. When my oldest was 10, I told stories to him every night before he went to sleep. I made up all kinds of crossover stories in which I turned super heroes into 6 year olds. Their favorite ones were about how Batman struggles with math in school and he imagined he could do extraordinary things. He decided to put on this Bat suit band protected his classmates from bully. They found that story funny. My younger son have continued their brother's love of stories and at 14, he is asking for stories from his older brother.

American psychologist Jerome Bruner, author of the influential essay "The Narrative Construction of Reality", has documented that children, as early as two years old, show that "they understand the stories that their families tell them, and they start to tell their own stories, and in particular start to tell stories to themselves as part of their first efforts to make sense of their lives." This supports the notion that all of us are hard-wired to tell stories, somehow not everyone know how to use that skill.

When I was working with Michael Coyle in a very exciting strategy project (he was my client as Chief Strategy Officer of Intrawest), I saw him as a great story teller. He told wonderful stories of travel experiences and how those inspire people and change their lives. He truly understands the power and art of storytelling both external to customers and internal to investors and board of directors.

What is it about stories and storytelling that seems to resonate with many of us? I’ve seen many bad presentations that bring out slides after slides of facts that hasn’t for a story behind it. What is a bad presentation? One that doesn’t tell a story or the story is not personal, authentic or inspiring.
Businesses tell stories all the time, for customers, for investors, for staff. Designers tell stories all the time. Musician’s job is to tell stories. Let's take a look at the kinds of stories businesses that are being told every day.

There are brand stories (the stories of what a brand truly stands for), marketing (the stories of how customers love our offerings), and promotion (the stories of what a good deal this is). We also use stories for investor relations, recruitment and for mergers and acquisition. Businesses tell stories about their past and their futures. Stories are how we remember; we tend to forget power points and bullet points. Business people not only have to understand their companies' past, but then they must be prepared to tell stories of the future. And how do you imagine the future? Part of Idea Couture’s innovation process is storytelling. As stories, we create scenarios of possible future and as groups we try to anticipate the threats and opportunities. It is a very effective way of talking about the future and potential disruptions.

Storytelling was probably developed in archaic times as a means to organize vast and confusing amounts of information. It retains that function and becomes particularly important in transitional times such as the present. Cross media storytelling is becoming a core skills for marketers. As traditional markers of identity such as ethnicity and class become elusive, individuals, and companies as well, need to articulate their stories in order to define themselves. Storytelling, arguably the most traditional of arts, in the context of a culture dominated by emerging media, is the most important skill people and institutions need to learn, leveraging the power of narrative. 

Do you have your story ready?

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