Do you know what politicians, technocrats and excellent comedians have in common?

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley, Flickr

They all engage with people and tell a story, but one has the ability to story tell and engage, connect and influence their audience.

I was at Anticipating 2025 futurists event recently. Mark Stevenson put this brilliantly in his talk on The Shift: Why our systems are failing us and what will replace them, saying why we should all have a bit of brilliant comedian in us.  He compared good comedians to scientists and technocrats, they tell you jokes they think are good and want you to hear i.e they give you the facts as they are, whereas great comedians are like politicians, they might have a different agenda, but tell you what you want to hear! 2010 MP expense reform vs current shameful Maria Miller debacle…..Enough said!  The excellent comedians are the ones that make a difference – they tell you what they want to say but express it in a way you want to hear it!

Whether we like it or not, we are generally always selling something, be it in a business development capacity for a company, a start-up idea to investors or yourself to a new employer. I was recently talking to David Rose (inventor of glow caps) and Chris McRobbie at an @iotlondon event. I asked Chris, given the challenge of adoption to new or disruptive technology what made it possible for them to sell in their #IoT innovation at scale years ago when it’s only starting to become more topical and pervasive now. His answer: Storytelling!  He said that David has a great ability to knit together the story of what his invention is and why it matters to the customer based on their needs. True to form, his talk was entitled “Enchanted Objects” and although everything about his innovations is technical he created magic in telling the story!

So here are 3 practical considerations to storytelling:

1. Do your research

Great design begins with great research. Whilst human-centred design may have become the latest victim of cliches there is validity to the practice. Understanding your customers pain points or potential issues will enable a better designed product or service. David was saying during their development of the glow caps, they initially created the trendiest haute-couture medicine dispensers which users loved but their customers (large scale pharma distributors) didn’t! The standard medication bottles were never going to change and their innovation had to work within the existing parameters or they would never have the sale or scale they needed to succeed.

2. Have something to sell

In February I had the privilege of meeting someone I greatly admire and respect - Dame Stephanie Shirley. This 80+ lady still full of life, passion and thirst to learn & improve personally. I was talking to her about an edtech venture of mine and there were two great pearls of wisdom that I held on to; you never know where the market will take you and the difference between great ideas and success is the ability to execute. True words!

From now until 2025, there will be seven 18-month “Moore’s Law” generations, resulting in a 128-fold (2^7) increase in computing power. That will enable devices that are, for example, five times more powerful, five times cheaper, and five times smaller (hence requiring five times less energy input) than today’s computers. We are living and operating in a different era than when Dame Shirley pioneered the first software company providing part-time employment to women with dependents. Time to market is crucial and agile processes and iterative design make this possible. You need to turn your idea or concept into something ‘tangible’ quickly. The reality is that if you don’t do it, your competition surely will.

3. Be Human

“People, buy from people”. We cannot disregard the human factor in engaging with our prospective customers, investors or new employees. If you’ve done your homework and understand the nature of the market, the needs of the customer and have developed a product or service that makes a difference you already have the ingredients for the story. You add the magic by telling them what you want to say in the way they want to hear it!

So don’t be a politician, scientist or good comedian when it comes to telling your story, but rather make magic and be an excellent comedian!

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Failing Forward

An inspirational video of this kids determination in building an experiment.  Interestingly, he views and incorporates failure as part of his learnings!  It’s a great lesson for us in how we incorporate, build and establish a culture of innovation in our businesses or workplace.

I have discovered the better my process in defining a problem the more effective I am at generating ideas and solutions.  Very often our processes are limiting and don’t foster rapid prototyping to explore broader fields of ideas and or encourage collaboration across different levels of stakeholders.  Whether a start-up or established business developing empathy for your ‘users’ is always a great place to start and establishing processes to rapidly finding ways to solve the needs of these ‘users’ potential revenue and retention channels!

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