The importance of storytelling in digital transformation
Storytelling is all around us in the modern business world.
Your favourite heartstring-tugging advert uses storytelling to elicit your emotions and make you buy a product. The talks we listen to from many talented speakers are full to the brim with personal stories. Your manager tells you stories from their professional past during your 1:1 meetings.
There are many reasons why storytelling is so effective at getting information across, and why you should be using it in your digital transformation internal communications to maximise employee buy-in and engagement.
The science behind storytelling
Before stories in novels or our favourite Netflix series, passing down stories orally between generations was the only way of sharing and keeping important information in circulation. Myths, urban legends and fairy tales all entertained, taught lessons, and kept ancient humans safe from danger for thousands of years.
Listening and processing stories is not only a matter of cognitive understanding. The value of storytelling lies in our emotional involvement in the stories we hear.
There are a few reasons why humans connect to stories on such a deep level.
Firstly, our brain structure makes us highly emotional creatures. Deep within the brain, in the limbic system, the amygdala is responsible for dealing with emotions, while the hippocampus helps with memory formation.
Hearing a story which elicits empathy and understanding not only activates the amygdala, but also the hippocampus, which leads to the creation of long lasting memories. This is the reason why you may find yourself remembering a story that a teacher told you in school, but not what you had for lunch a few days ago.
Another reason why humans love stories so much is a phenomenon known as neural coupling. Have you ever been so engrossed in a story that you anticipate what’s to come and feel the associated emotions before you hear the outcome?
Well fMRI scans show that when we listen to a story, our brain activation areas mirror those of the speaker. This shows our ability to anticipate thoughts and synchronise brains with our storyteller.
As a result, listening to a story lets you live a moment in another person’s shoes as your brain syncs emotional states.
Lastly, listening to a good story makes our brains release oxytocin, the hormone associated with love, trust and empathy. Therefore listening to a story is not only relaxing, but also helps us to build connections with the people around us.
The benefits of storytelling to communicate digital transformation
In our previous blog we mentioned the shocking statistic that 70% of digital transformation initiatives fail. While there are many reasons for this, not engaging with your people is often cited as one of the main flaws of failed digital transformation programmes.
Communicating a digital transformation to your people can be tough for a number of reasons. Some of the people within your organisation may be discouraged by past change initiatives, some may be experiencing change fatigue, others may simply be disinterested.
Well storytelling has your back.
The science behind storytelling makes it an excellent tool for getting messages across in a way that people understand and remember. By its nature, using storytelling to share a digital transformation with your people allows you to tap into valuable emotions. Storytelling allows you to share the purpose of the digital transformation, and what it means for you and your organisation.
Connecting a digital transformation to something your people can relate to, like a story of failure, an obstacle, or overcoming a challenge, takes it from an unfamiliar technology or process to something with a purpose and benefits for the whole organisation.
Furthermore, since stories activate many areas of the brain at once and become etched into our brains for a longer time than other forms of communication, storytelling gives your messages longevity. This is especially useful for digital transformations, which are often long-term initiatives.
Building a story to tell your digital transformation also allows you as the speaker to build a connection with your audience. Sharing aspects of your own life in your digital transformation story gives your internal communications a more personal feel.
Within some organisations this may be the first time employees can see those in leadership positions as people they can relate to. This is really valuable as it humanises those in higher positions, making a case for high internal support of your initiative or digital transformation.
The delivery of your story is largely up to you and your organisational culture. Whether you choose to write an internal statement, distribute a video message to every employee via email, or host an online or in-person live event, the benefits of storytelling carry through to your people.
Do you have a digital transformation coming up? If so, get your thinking cap on and get writing.
Not quite sure where to start? Come back in a fortnight, when we will give you a guide to storytelling, and how to build a story for your business.