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It is not difficult to recognise a good strategy when we see one. It provides an immediate ‘a-ha’ effect, and makes us ponder. However there are many good strategies which are such on paper, yet fail at the gate of execution, because they do not move people to action. As a matter of fact, any strategy needs a compelling narrative to hit the hearts of the employees of a firm.  

Fortunately, design thinkers and their focus on empathic design come to the rescue, by making storytelling accessible to the corporate world. But what is storytelling? It is about a narrative, which does not rely only on words to send a message, that combines images, sounds and body language, and focuses on the cadenza and rhythm of metaphors so that the message is not just heard, but also felt. Storytelling can, therefore, motivate people to action by building a winning, memorable and actionable narrative for any strategy.   But how do you approach storytelling in a way that any firm can adopt it? Here are seven tips to use storytelling to ensure that a strategy moves people to action:  

1. Co-create the story

A common problem with strategies, whose words are often crafted in the boardroom or offices nearby, is that they get stuck in the elevator to the lower floors. They do not speak the “lower floors’ language” and they are not built on familiar insights. Hence, they fail in building consensus. By co-creating the story (not necessarily the strategy per se) at all levels of a company, you can build a narrative which is easier to listen to and follow by the whole organisation.

2. Begin with a structure

Every good story has a beginning, a development and an end. While not neglecting the importance of surprises, people tend to follow better what is familiar to them. Thus, sticking to a structure is important.

3. Think about the medium

Just as important as the story itself is the location and the tools through which the story is delivered, because they could either reinforce or kill the message. A good narrative requires a complete 360 degree experience, which relies on interior design, artefacts, sounds and films to come to life.  Think as little “powerpoint” as possible, and get inspired by TED and TEDx speeches around the world.

4. Bring back the drama

Not everybody can talk in front of a crowd the way Steve Jobs did, which is why most of us probably need a professionally well crafted and rehearsable script to ensure that body language, words, pauses, and metaphors fit the narrative. This is a necessary step to win the audience’s hearts.

5. Showcase

Make your story tangible by showcasing products and prototypes, and by presenting business cases that fit with the strategy. Make sure that they are relevant, because showcases are what your employees will recall later.

6. Entertain

Entertaining an audience is key to separating them from everyday worries, their preconceptions, their fears, and to let them embrace the narrative on a deeper level. As surprising as it might sound, an entertaining narrative is a key to promoting the strategic insights, which are necessary to move the organisation to action. Think of former US VP Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”: the self-deprecating jokes and the humour in general significantly helped the delivery of the message, and how much of it people would recall later.

7. Avoid Fiction

One of the biggest risks of combining experiences, drama and entertainment in a narrative, is crossing the border into fiction. A strategic narrative is as compelling as it is real, conceivable and actionable.

In summary, storytelling can be an important strategic tool to ensure that an organisation buys into a new strategy, by moving its people to action.  

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