The Power of Stories

If you ever stop in to my Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship class or if you happen to talk with me about entrepreneurship, you'll likely hear me speak on the importance of stories to the founding--and eventual success--of any new venture. Just this week, I had a convergence of three experiences that all bespeak the importance of storytelling to new venture creation.

My first experience came while reading Jessica Livingston's book, Founders at Work. This book does a great job of unpacking the first days of life for 32 different companies, many of which you're familiar with: Paypal, Apple, TripAdvisor, Flickr, and the like. The rich detail and the human voice that you hear as you read the accounts provides a look into the experience of founding a lasting organization. It is in these interviews that we learn that not all of these great companies started with the concept that we now see and associate with them. For example, Paypal didn't originally exist as an online payment site, but instead as a PDA-enabled money transferring software program. In like manner, TripAdvisor started originally as a repository for travel-related information, not as a user-based reviewer-driven community for travel. It is in and through stories such as these that we experience the heartbeat of the founding and we can better understand how serendipity and skill both play a part in the success of new ventures.

My second experience came while listening to a great storyteller, Michael Gerber, author of the best-selling E-Myth series of business books. This past Tuesday, Michael spent time with our Entrepreneurship Society at Cal State San Marcos and shared from his life experiences. He wove an interesting and thoughtful story that captivated the students as they were, literally, on the edge of their seats. He commanded their attention and drew them in. This experience, yet again, highlights the value of storytelling in new venture creation.

My final experience came my way this morning via an email from a friend. On his commute, he heard about a company that he thought I might find interest in exploring. The company is Bazaarvoice. While digging around on their website, I came across a link that discussed the value of...[drumroll please]...stories. The firm devotes their careful attention to using the power of social media to connect your brand with customers, at a heart level. As their website imparts:
Stories engage consumers at an emotional level. Authentic stories draw new visitors to your site, including those who may be unfamiliar with your brand but are attracted to a story’s theme. Tapping into customer passions ultimately yields a broader – but highly relevant – audience.
Perhaps today you can take some time to reflect on the importance of your own story to your company's founding. And, if you get a moment, share it with the rest of the readers by posting a comment below.

*image from Bazaarvoice []

No comments: