Telling and retelling stories is one of humanity’s most durable characteristics: Harvard linguist Michael Witzel has argued that most of the world’s mythologies grew out of a single set of stories first told in Africa 130,000 years ago. Yet what is the future of corporate storytelling? Although our penchant for storytelling may not change any time soon, the storytelling used inside the corporation does seem to be shifting in two ways. First, storytelling is becoming recognized as a trainable skill. Second, and possibly more importantly, the Internet is making it increasingly difficult for companies to control a single version of their own story.
Storytelling is a reliable way to reach audiences. According to storytelling experts, organizing stories in a form that connects to people’s feeling is an effective way to make information more memorable. But for sales people, telling their sales stories well is more challenging than for CEOs telling a company story—a sales person’s time is limited as the audience is under no obligation to listen to them for a long time; and they need to learn to tell the story throughout the entire sales process, from introducing themselves to managing customer relationships, and the focus of these stories will also vary by culture.
Storytelling is one of the most important skills for leaders to learn, because their job is to gain trust, and to persuade and influence people. Today, a number of consultants offer services that teach storytelling to executives or help them develop stories for internal or external consumption. A good story is a memorable way to make a point. And by engaging the emotions, a story makes it easier to persuade or motivate the listener. Stories can fulfill several roles for an organization. Founders’ stories, for instance, can be especially useful in giving people a sense of their company’s identity and in shaping the company’s culture.
Theme parks are normally a place to enjoy a nice day out with your friends or family. However, in mainland China, theme parks may soon turn into a battleground. Wanda Group, a conglomerate that has opened several amusement parks across China over the last few years, has warned Disney about its theme park operations in China. It’s certainly not easy, if possible at all, for Wanda to make Disney unprofitable. Will lowering price at the cost of lowering its own profit help, or improve the quality and service is more practical? Maybe the best solution is to get along with the competitor.
In the past two decades, coffee has been making significant in-roads in China. Although it might not be a staple for workday breakfast yet, for young people in urban areas, it has become a status symbol and something that says about their style and taste. Coffee, says Esteban Liang, Managing Director of Costa, Asia, is an “affordable luxury.” In the interview with Liang, he discusses how coffee became so popular and what Costa Coffee has experienced in the Middle Kingdom so far. Attempting to ride the middle-class wave, Costa aims at becoming a “strong number two” in China with better environment, product and service.
“Sustainability is one of those issues that I am very passionate in, it is linked to my beliefs,” says Zhang Huaying, Coca-Cola’s VP for Sustainability in the Greater China, Korea region. She has been tasked with integrating the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility plans into day-to-day operations, taking it beyond just PR concerns. But how exactly does this work? And how is Coca-Cola’s CSR program structured differently to most companies? In this interview, Zhang talks to CKGSB Knowledge on how Coca-Cola practically implements sustainability programs in China, whether the issue is water sustainability or financial arrangements for helping out with responses to natural disasters.
As a seller, you may often encounter a situation like this: your customers gather and discuss the product they want to buy and one day they come to you and form a group, bargaining. As a result, you have to offer them discounts and other benefits. Harvard economist Michael Porter formalized this idea, called “buyer power,” in 1979. “Buyer power” is separate from the competition that you face and you should be careful to distinguish the two. Even if you face little competition, if your buyers are powerful then you are in trouble. Read our article to find out a solution.
Between rapid technological change and global competition, it’s becoming harder for anyone selling a product or service to maintain a competitive edge–especially when that product is more or less the same as everyone else’s. But companies with products caught in this trap have more options than they realize. Even if you can’t win by being the cheapest or the best, you don’t need to simply resign yourself to commodity status. Creating a consumer brand for the industrial commodity, branding the product in a way that makes it familiar to the users, and sometime even raising price can be a positive differentiator.
For nearly 25 years now, IDEO has stood at the cutting edge of the possibilities of design. Founded in Silicon Valley in 1991 by David Kelley, an early popularizer of the design thinking methodology, IDEO has grown into a diverse global organization, with experts on tap in disciplines ranging from behavioral service to software engineering. Thirteen years ago, IDEO opened an office in Shanghai. Charles Hayes, a partner at IDEO and Managing Director of IDEO China, talks about the evolution of IDEO China, IDEO’s approach to design thinking in a Chinese context and evolving Chinese business and consumer cultures.
A number of businesses have made remarkable gains by integrating design thinking into their development process—not the least of which was Hovey-Kelley, which morphed in the early ’90s into IDEO, the international design giant. Some universities are even beginning to include a mandatory course in design thinking in the general curriculum. Some corporate strategy experts argue that design thinking is nearing the kind of inflection point that the Quality movement reached in the late 1980s, when the total quality methodology became an inescapable part of doing business. Yet some critics are saying design thinking is dead. But the truth is its value lies in the worldview it propagates.