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.
Executives have long understood the business value of a ripping yarn. Different consultancy companies will have their own take on what makes a good story. Yet whatever the scale of your literary ambitions, there are some fundamental rules seem to apply. First you start with good material and you need to identify what is and isn’t a story. A story is something that begins with a time-marker and is also always visual. Don’t use the “S” word. Don’t say “I just want to share a story with you.” Well, in business, that’s like death. Instead, say: I’ve had a really interesting experience. And remember to be sincere.
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.
With new innovations taking place every day, we have entered an era where industries and companies are increasingly at risk for disruption and job security is much less than it was in the past. One way to safeguard your professional life is to develop a strong reputation to fit in with the changing market. However building a public reputation is never easy: finding your uniqueness, how other people think of you and what to listen to can all become barriers to self-promotion. In this interview Dorie Clark, the author of two popular personal branding books, explains a step-by-step approach for individuals who are interested in creating their personal brand.
These days, corporate value is based not only on what you sell, but who you are: in a 2016 global study by Edelman, 48% of consumers said they won’t buy from a company they distrust but 37% said they will pay more for a product from a company they do trust. Unfortunately, becoming one of these admired companies is not easy. A great reputation doesn’t just appear by magic simply by behaving honorably and doing good work. So what facets are needed to build a respected corporate identity?
We make decisions every day. Most of them are small: Should I buy that shirt? Others demand more thought: Is marriage right for me? The common thread running between all of them is that we are unequipped to make sense of any of it. The world in which the human race came of age—one of ferocious predators and unforgiving nature—is no longer the world we live in. For the risks we face now, we are out of date. Dan Ariely, author of bestsellers like Predictably Irrational, has built a career mapping the peculiarities of our innermost decision-making foibles, and offers insight in guarding against them.
Once upon a time, designers were considered a fairly rarified breed in the corporate world—people with more interesting hair, eyeglasses and talent than the rest of us, but not a key part of the “real” business. Today, however, that’s changing. As more and more companies face the need for constant innovation, design is earning more respect. In fact, these days, many organizations are training their employees to think like designers. Jeanne Liedtka, a professor of strategy and author of three books on design thinking, argues that learning to approach problems the way designers do can be a useful way to spark innovation in almost every company.
Whether you’re working at your dream job or you’ve been plotting your escape for months, chances are you’ve experienced your fair share of days that simply can’t end soon enough. From snarky colleagues to grim commutes, the possibilities for our working day taking a wrong turn are seemingly endless, and remedies aren’t always in sight. Caroline Webb, CEO of Sevenshift, an advisory firm focused on performance in the workplace, has put together a guide for improving our work life with her book How to Have a Good Day. Drawing upon research in neuroscience, behavioral economics and psychology, Webb tells us how we can make our work smarter, productive and satisfying.
Throughout our careers, we encounter a range of management styles, with mixed results. But what is it that distinguishes a regular boss from a truly great boss? Why is it that some help us to reach new heights, while others make us feel constrained? These are deceptively simple questions with many complex answers, the latest of which comes from Sydney Finkelstein. In his new book Superbosses, Finkelstein takes as his guide figures from disparate industries, including jazz musician Miles Davis and newspaper editor Gene Roberts, and examines the traits of those who have spawned extensive networks of talent, the titular superbosses, and ultimately brought greater success to themselves.
Developments in technology have always led to changes in management practices. Papyrus and writing made the first empires possible, and the telegraph and telephone later gave the modern corporation its central nervous system. As digitalization changes the nature of our work, it’s not so wild to imagine management will change too. One answer may be Holacracy, a trademarked management system designed by former programmer Brian J. Robertson. Using what he describes as “a new social technology”, Robertson hopes to remove what he sees as a key defect in the modern enterprise: the inability to incorporate the insights of individuals into the actions of the group.