Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Unexpected circumstances lead to the best stories. We pass through uncertain and inevitable situations. Organizations have no choice but to adopt innovative ways of working. New technologies, capabilities and practices need to be adapted quickly. The roadmaps are chartered, there is value in propositions and high-level agreement on principle, yet there is a disconnect. Despite a strong plot, the story fails to capture the eyes and ears.
It's the right time to weave our stories better with the three laws to change communication.
1. The Law of Relatability
As I type the word ‘relatability’ Google tells me it does not exist in its dictionary! Google of all tools, should know relatability. Well it may be a new word, but the meaning is not lost on anyone, is it? That’s exactly what this law is all about. The audience needs to relate to your story. The words you choose to describe your plot – your plan – needs to paint a picture in their mind. You may have a brilliant plan, but for stakeholders to buy into it, you must see it from their perspective and build your storyboard accordingly. For example, if you are presenting a Cognitive RPA proposal, you must ponder on how your stakeholders will relate to it. Would they see the productivity gain you are suggesting or would they get spun into possible human vs. machine debate? The way they relate to it would depend on the perception that they carry in their minds. If you want to get a favourable outcome you must address that perception first for your stakeholders to relate to your story in the present context. Give them reasons to build affinity. Tell them a case study that challenges their perception and leads them to the path you have charted on your plan. You can find more on managing perceptions here.
2. The Law of Projection
The time tested success formula for every storyteller is the rags to riches saga. The saga of prognosis – from where you are to where your aspirations take you – your ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ projection. Ages ago Aristotle prescribed the best storytelling framework "A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end" and this whole is the sum total of where the protagonist begins and where he ends. In simple terms, the aspiration, the dream must come through – where does your program take the organization, what would you achieve and what difference will it make in terms of competitive advantage, employee confidence, productivity boost and finally in terms of revenue gains or costs saved. If you are able to make them align to the big picture, battle is half won. It is only after they align to the vision will they pay attention to the modalities of achieving it. Hence you can never sell an AI project or a RPA program, what you sell is t he vision of achieving tangible growth aided by these technologies. It is important to project the future scenario and then detail the path to it. You cannot take travellers on board if you rattle out milestones, they need to know where you are headed and why.
3. The Law of Urgent Action
It is always now or never. You would never want to let your stakeholders push your plan to the next quarter. But how do you achieve it? Rationale, structured approach and a very firm picture of what is the cost of not doing it right now can do the trick. Till the time the stakeholders are made to appreciate what is at stake they will not see bias for action. The threat, for want of a better word, must feel real and incumbent. Align them to the urgency you feel, your story must portray the tension, the struggle you see in the competitive marketplace and must propel the protagonist to act, and act now. And, this brings us to another important point – who should be the hero of your story? No, it is not you. But that is a matter of a separate discussion, we will have soon. For the time being let’s focus on the stakeholders, the protagonists because they have so much at stake!
Everyone has a story but only a handful can actually be storytellers. There is something magical about stories, something ethereal, yet at the same time there is a strong connect, a bond that you instantly build. It is not always the plot or characters or settings that charm the listeners, but how you present your narrative? Well, if you have to make your stakeholders all ears, your clients all excited, your employees all enthused – be a storyteller.