Monday, 27 September 2010

Trying to write in 7 days - Storytelling in Business

I am co-hosting a conference on Innovation and HR at Roffey Park on October 15th ( but time is running away with me. I have a speech to deliver that day, and a workshop to run. And I also wanted to produce a white paper on something I have been meaning to write about for years - Story Telling in Business.

But time is running out - so I have set myself a challenge. To write a short chapter a day (max 1000 words) and publish it here for you to see and comment on. Please support me in this - add any comments or criticism. Let's collaborate to tell the story together!

Here goes....installment one:

Are you sitting comfortably?

How the world’s most innovative companies are using storytelling to drive business success

"What really counts is that I’m Irish and I know how to tell stories”
Jack Welsh


Introduction – my father, the storyteller

Stories about the Individual

Stories to create a Vision

Stories to create a Culture

Storytelling to your Customers

The future of Storytelling


When I was a child I used to get really excited around bedtime. I am aware that this is unusual behaviour as most children try to find every excuse in the book to stay up late with the adults.

It wasn’t that I had a particular penchant for sleep or the best bedroom in North London. What excited me was what happened just before the lights went out.

My father, an immigrant from Ireland, and like many from his homeland, is a master storyteller. Every night, before lights out, he would sit at the end of my bed and tell me a story. He didn’t read me a story. He would make one up on this spot – with either my brother or I as the lead character. It was a tale personal to us.

And as I heard magical tales of Glinda the Wicked Witch of Wales or Detective Michael Patrick O’Keeffe, he taught me lessons about life that have stayed with me forever.

In the fight between the good witches and the bad witches, I learnt the importance of morality. In the one about my brother and I solving great crimes, I learnt that hard work and diligence pays off. And in the one he told me one Christmas, about there being no Santa Clause, taught me that sometimes we have to be disappointed in life to learn lessons that help us to grow.

As I grew up and moved into the world of business both in London and New York I ran conferences, wrote internal communications, crafted CEO speeches, developed new products and pulled together marketing campaigns I realised that I was telling stories – just like the ones my father used to tell me all those years ago.

And as I look around the business world, I see that successful leaders, organisations and brands are all using stories to inspire their people, engage their customers or, sometimes, make a real difference in the world.

This pamphlet is an attempt to share with you some of the great examples of storytelling I have seen and to inspire you to throw away some of your policy manuals and bring them to life – through the power of stories.

From the early cave man drawing on walls, through the Greek Myths and right up to Reality TV, the human condition and its development is bound up with stories.

What a powerful organisation you could have if you harnessed a bit of that.


  1. Love this idea! Wow, I get so bored ,day in day out about business theory and you have managed to inspire and entertain me with simple stories that are personal and enlightening. Keep going..but resist the temptation to use business speak..its the personal stories that people engage with and relate to as at the end of the day who doesnt love a good yarn....Cant wait to read the book! keep it up!

  2. Like it, i love the storyteller aspect!

  3. Yes, MOK you go for it mate, clever way to get the job done. Like the first batch, would add a chapter around "ingredients of great story(telling)

    I was at TEDx in London last week and somebody said that if we see pictures of starving children in Africa, it simply goes over our head because we have been used to this since the Benetton campaigns in the 80s and 90s. Only a story, will connect us to people's destinies and issues, pictures alone are not doing it anymore, hence, corporate comms have become a glossy magazine and my attention span allows 10 seconds for it, not more, but a great story is worth listening or reading for longer