In our first piece on storytelling where we talked about the human need to tell stories and about the two different kind of stories we see in business, we will elaborate on the implication of technology in this second piece on storytelling.
Implication of technology for information gathering
Plato already argued that the wisdom of writing was superficial: no give and take of cross-examination and responses was possible. If the reader questions a written proposition, there can be no response, no defense. Discussion, argument, and oral deliberation are not easily side-stepped in face-to-face situations. Although more and more video blogging and live streaming platforms like Periscope and Blab are emerging, the interaction still is fairly limited when compared to face-to-face storytelling. This doesn’t mean we can forego the technological evolutions that we are experiencing and maybe crafting ourselves for the last couple of years.
Thanks to evolutions in the digital space, we are reaching a tipping point in the way we do business. For thousands of years, people within a company held the upper-hand because they had the most product knowledge. Word of mouth, while powerful, was nowhere near its strength today. Today, buyers often know more than sellers. Before you get into features and benefits, the buyer has Googled you and your company. Before you ask for the meeting, the buyer has seen an unflattering picture of you, read a blog-post about your company's customer service, and sent an email to a former customer.
What is the appropriate technology to support storytelling?
What technology could we use to tell our story? We could write a newsletter or refer to our website to communicate the vision and mission of our organization. We could burst some pdf-reports to the sales reps with a couple of numbers about their region and clients. Or should we really go out there and talk to our audience? In contrast to written texts, stories that are told well are both more specific and less ambiguous communication, because the speaker reinforces his or her specificity of meaning with gesture, expression, intonation, and so on, and various self-correcting mechanisms of which fixed print is incapable. Twitter and Facebook allow us to tell stories about ourselves and our companies, but a lot of nuance is lost in translation. Several accounts where an ironic remark on social media leads to contrary reactions are reported the last couple of years. For example the senior director of corporate communications at IAC that was fired after a misinterpreted tweet. The same lack of nuance goes for static reports.
But what about flexible associative dashboards? They allow for business discovery and empower the end-user to search for business value in the data: how sales can be optimized or what the impact of a different customer segmentation would be. They also allow the end-users to start telling their own stories about how the company is doing and what the next steps should be to do even better. So now we can really start collaborating and decide in a networked way how to go forward.