Is Storytelling Holding Back Innovation


However, there is a way to convey ideas that resonate and motivate action: A way that can aid in overcoming the unseen battle. 

So how does someone begin to overcome these powerful forces:  Storytelling! Storytelling can make the future magnetic. For the longest time I struggled with how to utilize PowerPoint. Powerpoint seemed to block my aspiration of delivering a meaningful and hopefully inspiring message. I am from the South so storytelling is part of my culture. Being anchored to a wordy PowerPoint, was a great struggle for me. The slides seemed to be the story versus helping tell the story. I felt trapped by bullet points, style guides, count of words, etc.

Trying to make progress in conveying ideas more effectively put me on a hunt.  A hunt that led me to Nancy Duarte. Nancy is the founder and CEO of Duarte Design. She also happened to grow up in the South. When I first connected with her I shared that as a storyteller I felt trapped; she completely understood! Nancy’s TED presentation “The secret structure of great talks” motivated me to attend her classes and read her books.  She is the author of Slide:ology, Resonate, and Illuminate.  Her approach helped me learn how to use the power of genuine story in helping get a message across. 

Part of the struggle in the way many of us try and explain our idea is that we don’t tell the complete story.  In Nancy’s structure of telling stories she reminds us of the need to:

  • Establish common ground with our audience’s current reality
  • Build on the reality to contrast the reality to what could be. 
  • Guide the audience in how to achieve the new horizon
  • Call the audience to action and then reaffirm the benefit of embracing the new idea  

Watching her video and reading her books was an A-HA moment for me. I didn’t have to use PowerPoint without it interrupting the message I wanted to convey. 

One key part of Nancy’s structure that resonated with me was to put myself in the position as - helper versus the hero. In a traditional way of thinking speakers have been lauded as heroes. That has always made me uncomfortable. The true heroes in the world are those who take an idea forward to a measurable or meaningful outcome for someone who has a Job to Be Done: my definition of innovation. 

Nancy’s approach is empathetic, which I believe is an innovation foundation. It is also curious in that you have to analyze your audience and be curious about why they are there.  You then structure your message around your Big Idea that will make their lives or those whom they serve better.     

Innovators have long shared visions of inspirational magnitude, but what separates the successes from those that don’t get off the ground? A story people can buy into.  If this is something you struggle with in delivering your message I suggest reading Nancy’s books.  In absorbing them I believe you will find that they will unleash the natural and authentic story teller within you.  You will feel that your message is coming across in a way that resonates and will help your audience achieve their goals and objectives.