By Janis Forman
Taken from chapter 2 of Storytelling in Business: The Authentic and Fluent Organization, this excerpt focuses on the importance of authenticity, the foundational element of the book’s research-driven framework for organizational storytelling. The book then takes up the additional elements of storytelling in business and uses original cases from Chevron, FedEx, Phillips, and Schering-Plough to show how companies can engage in storytelling to make sense of strategy and develop or strengthen culture and brand.
How can we think systematically about organizational storytelling? What are its key components and the relationships among them that apply across the companies that represent best practices? The research for this book began without a preconceived framework for making sense of organizational storytelling. The framework that emerged is based on analysis and primary research, including multiple site visits to best practices companies, interviews with more than 140 professionals who have expertise in organizational storytelling and review of the relevant company documents and literature in several fields.
Presented here, the framework identifies key components of organizational storytelling that come into play across the living cases of Schering-Plough, Chevron, FedEx, and Philips, which, in turn, elaborate on the framework’s components as they apply to a greater or lesser extent to the particular case.1 Moving forward, organizations and individuals that want to build storytelling capabilities can use the framework to guide and assess their efforts. This chapter, then, presents the framework, its key components and the relationships among them. (See exhibit 1)
Successful storytelling for business is authentic and fluent. At its foundation, organizational storytelling should be authentic—credible, realistic, tangible and intended to be truthful. It should also be fluent. Storytelling should draw the attention of stakeholders by engaging their emotions and intellect, using the craft that makes this form of communication compelling, and, in some instances, using technology, anything from photographs to state-of-the-art social media. These storytelling capabilities taken as a whole—the ability to engage the emotions and intellect, to use the craft of storytelling, and, in some instances, to work with technology—characterize fluent storytelling.