Why Should Entrepreneurs Learn the Art of Storytelling?

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Why should we, as entrepreneurs and leaders, commit to learning the art—and science—of storytelling?

Stories provide a powerful vehicle to enable your ideas to spread and endure.

That’s because good stories are portable. They’re easy to remember—and retell. In other words, a story becomes an ongoing teacher that outlives the original delivery.

Think about it. In ancient times before the invention of writing about 5100 years ago, humans passed on traditions, teachings, and warnings through stories because that’s the way we most easily understand and remember important ideas.

But even as writing became more prominent, stories continued to be a powerful means to influence and shape public opinion and culture.

Consider ancient philosophers and religious teachers, like Plato and Jesus. Plato used the technique of dialogue involving his teacher Socrates as the main character to make his philosophical ideas more engaging and easier to understand. And Jesus used parables to great effect.

Those big ideas packaged in the form of stories have spread and continued to shape our culture today.

But you don’t have to be a philosophical, religious, or even a literary genius to tap into the power of storytelling to achieve great impact.

A story can be a simple retelling of an experience that others can benefit from.

For example...

I was in 8th grade and Todd was in 7th.

We were cross country teammates. And about a mile into a six-mile run, both of our lives were about to change.

As we got about halfway up a small bridge, Todd stepped out onto the street to cross; I was still on the sidewalk about to follow him.

But in a split-second, a car came over the top of the bridge from the other direction. The driver couldn’t see Todd in time and struck him a few feet away from me, as I was about to cross.

Thankfully, Todd survived, but he was badly injured. And I was shaken up, as you can imagine.

The lesson: Only cross the bridge at the top where you have maximum visibility to traffic from both directions. AND be a better lookout for your teammate so that you both get back home safe.  

But the biggest reason why I’m sharing this story with you?

This incident happened over 30 years ago. But even as of a few years ago the “Todd story” was still being talked about as a cautionary tale warning young runners at my alma mater to be vigilant about their safety on the streets.

Think about your own situation. What are the stories that could offer important lessons to your company? When you draw those stories out and share them, they can become part of the institutional knowledge that continues to shape the culture and influence behavior long after they’re told.

The big idea here is that Stories endure. They live on … even after you move on.

Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that helps entrepreneurs tap into the power of story to grow their business.

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