Whenever I ask people “What are the basic ingredients of a story” they always go for the complicated. These past three weeks I have been delivering coaching in Zurich, Krygystan (just below Kazakstan and above Tedjikestan if you didn’t know), Barcelona and Amsterdam. Everywhere I have been it is the same problem – no one could tell me! They came out with phrases like “ It must be relevant, it must engage the audience, it must have a hero”… All these things are important, but we need the basic ingredients before we get to the icing. We need:
1) A Beginning
2) A Middle
3) An End
Every story we have ever enjoyed has this, unless it is a french movie in which case it begins in the middle, ends at the beginning and is full misery, smoking and pouting. French movies aside – Why do we struggle?
When I was doing Philosophy A-level it was the counter argument, the counter-counter argument and the counter-counter-counter argument that mattered. When I was at Uni I learnt how to write an essay with the necessary quotes at four o’clock in the morning. There weren’t any modules on “Everyday in your work life you will need to influence people, tell stories and listen”. Yet everyday, to make an impact in life we need to be able to tell stories and listen!
So we need to go back to school, to the school of story-telling. We need to re-wire our brain.
For Microsoft, the Amplify school of story-telling looks like a series of one and two-day workshops, where I am making Marketing experts tell random stories to each other, completely unrelated to Microsoft and to tell them in the styles of Opera and Kungfu. Does it work? Do they do it? Everytime. Why? One simple word: Joy. We need to bring the joy back to work where we can, because there is always Joy to be found.
The demands on Microsoft employees are intense and, like in most businesses, they are stuck in a culture of back-to-back meeting with back-to-back facts and lots of three letter acronyms that mean very little to anyone outside of the organisation! We all have our Acronyms, our CCG’s, EPG’s, QPR’s, MNO, GFP’s. They sadly mean little and confuse all.
What if people took time to pause? What if, when asked a question we answered it with a story of our customers, of the work we are doing internally? What if we met the tidal wave of “Give me facts” with one story that illustrated all the facts? What if we closed our laptops in a meeting, shifted forward in our seats, looked our colleagues and clients in the eye and took time to tell a story that will peak their interest?
I didn’t propose to my wife with a powerpoint, I don’t make friends by sharing seven facts about myself and sending a round-up email. So why do we talk like this in business? Of course we need to give information, but let’s not forget that we are humans first. If we share like a human and be more human, we will enjoy our meetings more, engage with our audience more and maybe start to remember why we are in the jobs we are in. Maybe it will cause us to leave our jobs – maybe that’s a good thing. One thing is for certain – you will feel more alive and present to everything around you.