Chapter 11. Tell the Story

In this chapter we’ll look at why stories are so powerful, and what makes them work. By being conscious of how you are crafting the narrative about your team’s progress, and about how solutions work in the lives of those who use them, you can help make the ideas and decisions of the group stick. Telling the story of the collaboration is as important as the collaboration itself in many ways. After all, the Post-it notes and whiteboard sketches rarely live on for very long, and seldom pack enough punch to persuade those who weren’t there of the merits of the effort. In order to bring along those who were not involved, it’s critical that you communicate effectively not only about what work was done, but also about the journey the team took to get there.

While we consume stories all the time, we don’t get much practice creating them. When I teach workshops on storytelling, people tell me that they know a lot of the techniques and principles involved, but they don’t use them at work. There’s a tendency to think that the work will tell its own story, or that situations that are filled with a lot of tension will be inherently interesting and understandable. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. Great stories don’t tell themselves.

When Jimmy Chin, the mountaineering photographer and filmmaker, was making his first movie, Meru, about the first descent of a peak in the Himalayas, he had the raw material for a story full of near-death experiences ...

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