For today’s blog post we welcome Henry Davies, founder of 106 Communications.
“FOR THINKING OUT LOUD…!”
The importance of storytelling in helping to foster a culture of innovation.
Innovation programmes can scare the hell out of people – even the most outspoken of leaders and colleagues. Because essentially what you are asking people to do is ‘think out loud’ – and, for some people, that’s an uncomfortable place to be.
As soon as you say something ‘out loud’, it can’t easily be unsaid. Off-the-cuff ideas or thoughts can be shot down instantly. Or, worse still, simply consigned to ‘trash’. Your manager might start to look at you in a new (not-so-flattering) light. And those years of good work and earned credibility can be undermined in an instant.
And all because you let loose with an idea.
Recently I heard the story of a law firm who set up an innovation programme for the whole firm. Except few people took part. Especially junior lawyers, whom you would expect to be the most prolific innovators. Because ultimately they didn’t want to make fools of themselves in front of their paymasters, the partners.
Now what we have here is essentially a cultural issue – and truth be told, this is hardly confined to law firms. Organisations are invariably focused on a linear reporting model, which often precludes wider collaboration and innovation.
So how do you start to challenge and change such a culture?
Of course, there are some fundamentals – such as leadership buy-in and sponsorship, management briefings, ease of access, recognition…
But there’s one communication tool that can start to build acceptance in all corners of the organisation – and that’s storytelling.
Why? Stories enable us to influence and persuade in ways that powerpoint, stats, policies and emails just can’t.
A story can help to show empathy and understanding, or simply to ask people to think about things from a different perspective.
A story also asks us to share something of ourselves – professional or personal, a challenge or an achievement.
Innovation isn’t easy, but in part that’s the point. If it was easy, it wouldn’t have such a dramatic effect on organisations, colleagues and customers.
So if you’re thinking of running an innovation programme, storytelling can really help to drive acceptance, participation and results.