The Hawaiian expression “talk story” takes on a whole new meaning in the digital age.
As humans, we’ve always told stories. In everyday life, we tell stories when we want to remember something. We tell others about our day. We read stories at bedtime. Wouldn’t it also be interesting to tell stories in a business environment? For example, instead of giving your client a list of facts about your company, wouldn’t it be more interesting to tell a story?
According to Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story, storytelling began to decline after several millennia of success, particularly in business. The progression of inventions—writing, the printing press, to technology—has led to communication being data-based and more technical. Formula reports, policies, and manuals took the place of storytelling throughout the 1900s. Smith writes: “Business schools churned out thousands of bright, analytical management professionals trained to look at a business like a machine that needed to be finely tuned. Telling stories would have identified someone as old school—certainly not a member of the new avant-garde of business leaders.”
From the Industrial Revolution, through advertising’s glory days in the 1960s, to today, we lost storytelling in the work space. We’re so concerned about facts, numbers, and money that we lose the human aspect—the story—behind why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’ve become so formulaic with communication, so rigid that we box ourselves in with traditional PR and communication tactics. And we’re only hurting ourselves. These “right,” by-the-book methods just aren’t working for us anymore.
But how can we apply storytelling in the workplace? For one, you can use it to explain a difficult process with simplified terms. For example, tell a story rather than read a list of bullet points and facts.
There’s a special phrase used for business meetings in Hawaii. You don’t meet with clients to discuss corporate matters. You meet to “talk story.”
The saying traces back to the ancient Hawaiians—remarkable storytellers who told tales around the fire pit. Legends were how knowledge was passed down from generation to generation. Stories were a way to document history, facts, and beliefs. The ancient Hawaiians did not have scribes, books, and keyboards to share information; they communicated through stories—stories that are remembered and still told today.
We can learn a lot from the ancient Hawaiians when it comes to writing our own business stories.
Storytelling, while seemingly archaic, is the foundation of human communication beyond Hawaii Island borders. Corporate roundtables may no longer take place around the fire pit, but stories should be woven into the agenda. It’s not like this in most present-day business environments, but it should be.
Storytelling is a formula-free, fresh perspective on communication that is way older than the Internet. With storytelling, you can craft tailored, memorable stories that make an impact, lead to conversion, trigger emotions, speak to a specific audience, generate action, and have a purpose.
That is what we love to do here at SMG. If you want to hear more about what this looks like, give us a call, and let’s talk story.
Mahalo & A hui hou (thanks & until we meet again),
Photo by Rob Bye