Let’s face it, some of our projects are just plain boring:
“We created a new TPS report for Mandy so that she doesn’t need to manually combine 10 spreadsheets every week.”
Communicating the true value of your project to stakeholders, team members and the wider organisation can be challenging. Using the age old skill of storytelling however, we can better engage our stakeholders, celebrate our wins, and put a smile on the most hardened faces. Your own style and creativity can be combined with existing storytelling masterpieces to bring your projects to life.
The age old skill of storytelling
In the old days, before these snazzy computers and printing presses. Wisdom was passed down from generation to generation using storytelling as the medium. Why storytelling?
Well, back in those days, it must have been worked out pretty quickly that people remember stories. When you wanted to ensure the future of your people and to pass on everything you had learned, storytelling was the medium of choice. People remembered the stories, they remembered the details, they were entertained by the struggles between good and evil. They also remembered the characters, and what could be learned by their examples.
Of course, we still use storytelling today. We can see some of the most obvious examples when we sit to watch a movie or a television show. The stories still engage audiences, and keep them watching. Season cliffhangers keep the audience waiting, they talk about the characters, what happened, and speculate on what’s to come.
Storytelling where you wouldn’t expect it
As I spent some time pondering on the use of storytelling in our world, I realised that storytelling is used commonly in places where we don’t expect it to be, and we see it every day. Sales and particularly marketing, use storytelling when selling products. Take for example this image:
Image from: Homebrew Bungler
What story does this image convey? Some dude just grabbed a beer out of the fridge, poured it out into a glass, placed them on the kitchen bench and decided to take a picture with his phone. It’s not very enticing. The person taking this photo and sharing it with you is telling you they cared just enough to take out their phone and take a photo. Maybe he doesn’t mind this brand of beer over some others. Does the photo tempt you to go and buy this beer to try it for yourself? Probably not. You may not even remember the brand name next time you’re in the shop.
Now, compare it to this photo:
Image from: PetaPixel
The story here is much more compelling. Here we can assume the beer is cold, and it’s presentation is promising to quench our thirst. Not only that, but it promises adventure. The beer is about to be consumed on the balcony of a trendy penthouse apartment, most likely with someone else joining you. Why would you be enjoying this tasty beverage on your own with this kind of view? Considerable effort went into making this photo look attractive, compelling, and to tell a story.
Now we come to the ultimate in beer storytelling:
Wow, just wow. Through these three examples, we can follow a transformation from boring to awesome. If you’re the cynical type, you may be asking the question, “Yeah, nice and all, but does it work?”. Well, it would seem the answer is yes, it does work. Here we have statistical measurement of the positive impact of storytelling.
Now, how can we apply this to the projects we are delivering? How do we best engage our stakeholders, our team and our organisation? How do we inspire them? Highlight the challenges? Celebrate the wins?