How storytelling can save your organisation

How storytelling can save your organisation

Storytelling can save your organisation! A bold claim? Let me explain.

Let’s say your organisation is facing an existential challenge. To weather it, your board has agreed to support a radical transformation programme – but you know it will only be effective if all your stakeholders are on side.

To get this far, you’ve already convinced senior people and experts of the need for change with data, models and projections. You know this approach will win more people’s heads. But so far the ‘why?’ sounds cold, dry and disconnected. On the ground, people are worried about what the change will mean for them and there are already rumblings of discontent.

If you want their buy-in, you need to win their hearts too – and for that, you need a compelling narrative. Here’s the sticking point: the art of constructing a narrative requires a different skill set – even a different mental model – to that needed for strategy and leadership. It’s quite rare to find both in one person.

That’s why, usually, the answer is a two-hander between leadership and narrative expert (like me!)

In this example, we start by completely reframing the problems the organisation is facing from a human perspective. This needs oodles of context to bring it to life. In health or social change, that might include stories of real people and what the organisational challenges mean for them – perhaps the impact of long waits or poorly integrated services.

The next step is to create a vision for the future, painting a vivid picture of the positive impact these changes could have using relatable characters and credible examples (for example, patient outcomes or staff engagement.). This vision needs to be both authentic and inspirational; truthful and emotive.

We can use motivational tools too, like social proof, by highlighting stories of other organisations that have undergone similar transformations and sharing their experience.

This ‘heart and head’ approach can produce messaging that:

  • transforms complex information into a relatable and persuasive story
  • engages the audience emotionally as well as cognitively
  • helps decision-makers communicate their vision, engage their people and create meaningful change.


Using narrative in this way doesn’t just build support – it also creates a shared understanding of the need for change. Stakeholders become invested and people become aligned in working toward a common goal. The story becomes a rallying cry for the organisation.

There’s another benefit: when you shape the story yourself, you get to frame it your way. This puts you in control. The alternative? Passively letting other stories emerge from the gaps in the data. (And they will!)

If tell your story well, your audience will move with you.

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