Corporate storytelling has been largely dominated by heroic stories, referring to extraordinary circumstances, handled by extraordinary people. They make for good headlines in the newsletter and it shows the corporate tribe alive and kicking. They point to a future of possibilities and, as such, they are stimulating and motivating. But their effect is limited and rather ephemeral. The average employee can’t relate to them. I’m not extraordinary people in front of extraordinary circumstances. ‘Most of the time’, you and I belong to the category of ordinary people doing ordinary work. Yet, through this day-to-day work, those employees, achieve significant outcomes, but not of the type that make headlines, and, most infuriating, many people keep them secret.
Good stories of success are mostly non-heroic ones (often anti-heroic) that have the power to trigger in others: it could be me, it could be my team, we could do that. That kind of effect. The more contagious the better.
In Viral Change™ we use a particular kind of story that is, as above, quite prosaic sometimes, but it is always a show of success (individual or group) and always connected with the behavioural fabric that Viral Change™ wants to embed. We avoid the heroic (nothing wrong with them) as we avoid the simple ‘naked testimonial’ (nothing wrong with them either) that is not directly connected to a set of values or behaviours.
Storytelling has become a (consulting) industry and a reservoir for many different things, not all effective even if under the banner of ‘story’. The key is to visualize the effect that you want to achieve and then plan backwards for the kind of stories that will lead you there. In that journey, many ‘good stories’ may need to be left behind.