Keys for Compelling Storytelling

Most innovations fail because they are too good, too smart, and too unfamiliar to the existing business to risk launching. The last phase of a full-cycle innovation process – storytelling – was rushed. A PowerPoint deck was created using the language of the business culture, unconsciously framing the new concept in the old world of the doldrums of existing operations. The new ideas get applause for their “brave, fresh thinking.” then are summarily placed on the back burner to be ignored for eternity.


A little savvy storytelling could have salvaged the innovation, helped launch it in the market, and fuel the company’s top-line growth. Here are a few keys to successful storytelling at this critical stage gate.


Know your audience. At this point your audience includes those whose bonuses are tied to short-term results. So if you propose a long-term disruption, make sure you have interim, short-term steps that will see a fast bump in revenue. Or, if you have a range of solutions, think through their concerns and offer a portfolio of quick wins and longer-term riskier, but higher value solutions. Also, if your fieldwork with consumers or customers yielded new insights about the brand and its elasticity, rather than reams of traditional market research data, this human-centric approach can reframe their perspectives of the market. This is high-value primary research.


Do two things at once. If you can discuss solving real issues for people while solving a vexing business problem, it’s an epic win-win. Weave these two threads together in a way that demonstrates a deep learning and a shape-shifting opportunity.


Two worlds at once. You are presenting to business people. Use the language of business. At this stage you should have done your homework. Model out the market size. Understand what competitors offer. Have a detailed business case and preliminary pro forma prepared. Know costs and price strategy. But also, pepper your numbers with the quicksilver of potential, the poetics of new possibility. Explain how this irrefutable plan not only takes competitive market share, but also grows previously unmapped territory for the brand and company, new headroom.


All good stories take listeners on a journey of discovery. Something surprising, insightful, delightful arises in the course of the tale. Ultimately, everyone who hears it should view the world and their place differently after hearing a well-told, compelling story.


If it is your job to get approval on a product or service innovation, master these keys or you will end up on the unnamed, dusty shelves of forgotten history.