In continuing with some of the thoughts I’ve put together on creativity, business, and storytelling:
In analyzing the markers of creativity – like convergent versus divergent thinking, lateral thinking, metaphors, and breaking set – traditional business seems to fall on the non-creative side. Yet businesses employing creative techniques look outwards towards engagement with their customers through story, social media, relationship management, and other ways to connect, which emulates divergent thinking (multiple solutions) rather than convergent thinking (bottom line). Creative companies often employ lateral thinking and broader association across different subjects and mediums. An example is the multimedia installation that Moment Factory created for Los Angeles International Airport, using large digital screens with interactivity based on customer movement to set off 3D effects, images, and movies, in order to enhance the passenger experience. Creative businesses also think in metaphors. And example is the way IDEO, an innovation and design consulting firm, pitches ideas to its clients. By showing a fresh apple next to an older one, IDEO was able to communicate to a client through metaphor about the need for visual freshness for their products – in this case, mattresses. A creative company also breaks set, like Apple, who has managed to equate phones and computers with a lifestyle. Many of these companies are aware of and understand the tools of storytelling as well, and incorporate it into their model.
Storytelling is often associated with plot, character, and narrative arcs, the stuff more of English class than of business school. But the old English class adage of “show, don’t tell” is what businesses are learning draws – and keeps – customers. Storytelling for business is really the narrative they are telling or the experience they are creating for their customers. Instead of telling customers what the product is or what it does, they are showing them, by creating a narrative around and about the brand. Hannah Arendt famously said that “Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it,” which means that a business or brand can tell a story, and without explicitly saying it convey the brand’s passion, mission, and direction. For example, a company like Levi’s might use storytelling that conveys realism and honesty, and might include characters that are informal but straight-shooting. Levi’s is able to get that type of messaging associated with their brand without coming out and saying, “We’re a no-nonsense brand.” Customers are able to enter into the story, associate with it, and will then move towards becoming a loyalist to that brand (Signorelli, 2014). In Stories at Work, Terrence L. Gargiulo states that “Stories blaze the trail for our communications. Think of stories as allowing communicators to prepare the proverbial soil for whatever ideas or information they want to plant” (p. 4).
Next: Are we programmed for story?