June 2, 2010

Two weeks back, while preparing for his presentation to his unit, a senior colleague was a bit puzzled on how to effectively communicate the vision without sounding boring and at the same time fuel them up with passion. Casually, I suggested to use the story of the transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly. After some discussion, he agreed to use the story to communicate his message.

The business unit in question is a nascent one. Small in size at present but with promise of future. Over the last one year, after he took over this small unit, he has remarkably transformed the unit and filled it with energy and enthusiasm that was never seen before. His passion became contagious. He wanted his team to understand and appreciate the bigger picture and not become complacent in newly found success. He wanted to convey that the future is going to be ten times brighter provided they keep working smartly in the right direction.

The story of the transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly gelled well with this situation. The transition phase of a caterpillar to cocoon and eventually to a beautiful butterfly after undergoing pain, struggle, and complete physical transformation provided the right backdrop for the unit. When he told the story to people in his unit, they related with it. When asked which stage were they, they promptly replied that they are cocoon and undergoing rapid transformation. They realized that a lot of hard work is still needed before they can fly like a beautiful butterfly. The story did it job. The message my colleague wanted to deliver got delivered; not in a boring manner but in an entertaining way that also generated positive energy.

The point that I want to make is that storytelling is the new way to effectively communicate in the corporate world. The world has become complex. Making sense of things in this complex world is increasingly becoming difficult. Too many models, too many theories, too many scenarios and most people sleep through the presentation.

Execution happens only if people understand the purpose and feel passionate about it. For this one needs to communicate effectively so that the message is hammered deep into the psyche without being annoying or confusing. And here storytelling scores over any other method of communication. All one needs is a good story to grab attention and then relate it to the business situation and the desired behaviour.

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