We all love a good story.
I grew up in rural Africa, amidst a rich culture of storytelling and at a young age I was conferred with the honorific of “imbongi” by our local people. In Zulu culture, the word is often reserved for those that change the path of the future by telling stories with meaning, caution, hope and vision.
On arriving at a village, the imbongi would be welcomed by the circle of elders and he would spend time listening to their news – their successes, challenges, the decisions they were contemplating, their goals for the future, their hopes and dreams. He would then walk around the village, observing the people, talking a little but mostly asking questions and listening, observing responses and activities for himself.
In the days and nights that followed, the imbongi would recount stories he had gathered on his travels. Each one carefully chosen to deliver a message, to change people’s behaviours, to help them contemplate future paths to take.
Over the last 30 years in business, I’ve used these same skills to bring to life the implications and consequences of technology change for employers, customers and audiences the world over, helping them to envisage their own story of the future as they imagine themselves as the hero, the villain, the victim, the protagonist, the helpless bystander.
In recent years, the concept of business storytelling has gained increased interest as brands have latched onto the fact that stories increase customer engagement and a good story fuels customer advocacy and loyalty, but there are countless areas within the business that storytelling can be used as a powerful catalyst for change. I have personally used stories for:-
- Innovation stimulation and new product ideation
- Communicating complex ideas to a non-technical audience
- Getting boards of directors, internal employees and suppliers emotionally connected to new concepts and ideas
- Raising R&D funding for new projects
- Strategy and scenario planning
- Inspiring change and transformation
- Envisioning the future
Most recently, I spent time with a young startup to help develop their pitch during Startupbootcamp. I’ve heard hundreds (possibly thousands) of product and proposition pitches over the years and often looked around the room to see the investment board or VC’s and angels focussed on their phones and laptops rather than on the pitch. But their focus changes when they hear a good story, one that resonates with them, one where they can see themselves in the story. Early stage investment is very often an emotional commitment after all.
Is the story of your future a fairytale with a happy ending? Is it a sci-fi that involves unimaginable technology progress? Is it a romance where you get together with a new partner and together create something magical for your customers? Or is it a horror story where your competition or new entrants steal your customers out from under your nose?
Whatever the story of your future is, I’d love to hear it!
About the Author
Andrew Vorster (or AV as he is better known), is a passionate technologist who has spent his professional career in the space in between the IT department and the business, acting as technology translator by interpreting the needs of the business and providing foresight into the implications of current and future technology capability, in order to influence innovation, strategic direction and future vision.
Andrew was a popular presenter at Customer Experience Tech Fest in 2015.