The Power of Story for Idea/Innovation Makers (You)

Idea to innovation. Time to market. Scrap heap or bestseller. For your innovation or idea to make it through the stage gate, gauntlet, market, etc. it has to be communicated. It needs a story. Stories help people understand the significance of your idea by answering what's meaningful about it, how it fits in, why it’s important, how to use it, what others might think of it, is its worth the cost, and so on. As human beings, we are wired for story. We process stories faster and retain more than when we receive a stream of facts out of context (remember eighth grade history...). A good story can help your idea or innovation speed through the obstacles and resistance ahead of it. But, a good story doesn't come by accident. It takes hard work. Nearly as much as the innovation itself.A good story starts by listening. To get your audience(s) to hear you, you have to write for them. To do that, you have to know them. So, spend time with the people that matter to your idea or innovation. Soak up their environment; learn how they evaluate new ideas and what's most important to them. Understand how they rationalize. Then, write your story as if they were talking about it to their friends and colleagues. Make your idea or innovation part of their day-to-day life and show how it creates value by letting the characters in your story react to its presence and gossip about it. Most importantly, show how your idea or innovation gets shared. Create a realistic situation and demonstrate (don't tell) how one person gets value from it, then gets excited enough to tell their friends—who discover for themselves your idea has merit and start to crave its benefits for themselves.

You can do similar stories for the people impacted behind the scenes by your idea or innovation by writing up scenarios that involve the factory floor, accounting, etc. After a while, the story takes on a life of its own. Because we're human and wired for story, we want to know how it (the story of your idea) will turn out. The cool part is that your readers can actually influence the outcome. If you've done your storytelling job well, they just might do what they can to see the hero of the story (your idea) succeed!

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2 Comments

  • daviding

    There's a lot of people with great ideas ... but the barrier to innovation is communication.

    It's not just the ability to explain, but an aptitude to create compelling narrative. Listeners need to link onto the ideas, repeat them, and bring them into their everyday practice.

  • Jim Gramata

    Excellent strategy for innovation. Sometimes the collection of the story is quite simple when the recipients of the innovation are accessible however there are times when the challenge to collect and interpret the audience is difficult or even impossible. Take for example an innovation which improves the way children learn to speak a primary language. The interaction with that audience is of course limited to perhaps signs or generally collected information. Say though the innovation is an advancement of how second languages are taught (or acquired). Then the audience can be polled through the 'media' of the primary language with much greater success. The power of the story cannot be underestimated and I applaud this post.