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The answer is yes.
A single person can share stories – a lot of stories. The more people are added to the mix, the amount of stories keeps growing – in theory at least. Larger organizations can share more stories because there are more people and with that there is a bigger likelihood for each person to add to the storytelling mix. But that doesn’t mean the sharing of stories should get harder or more complex.
Certainly, it can be easier for individuals and smaller organizations to get started on sharing their authentic stories, but the ability to share authentic stories doesn’t diminish when the number of people (storytellers) increases. What increases is the potential for unnecessary approval processes or mindsets not yet open to authentic storytelling across an organization. Some questions to consider to enable authentic storytelling in an organization:
- Can employees share their stories publicly or does somebody want to edit/censor them?
- Is the organization/leadership open to employees sharing their stories through blogs, social media, etc.?
- Do employees know how to share their authentic stories in a meaningful way with others?
- Do employees want to share their stories?
- How will stories be shared? (Internally and externally)
Depending on an organization’s answers, storytelling becomes harder or more likely. But, yet, storytelling is scalable. Yes. It already happens outside of organizations. Think about social media: Some stories are shared in smaller circles. Others get shared and distributed by larger circles.
People already blog about topics they care about. They share their thoughts and stories. How do we integrate what people do already in a company’s mission – in a non-forced, organic and meaningful way?
In February 2014, The Onion joked that “Online Content Creators Outnumber Consumers 2,000 To 1“
And while that’s a joke, it is true that more and more people are sharing content. Some kind of content. Not all of it is valuable, interesting or even consumed. Where organizations – big and small – can distinguish themselves is through unique, relevant and authentic content.
Organizational storytelling happens when people associated with the organization recognize, call out, document and then share authentic stories publicly. Stories help businesses (and communities) when they are true, meaningful and are shared in a believeable way.
This is a different system from traditional messaging where marketing-related teams would come up with organizational stories and massage the message. Authentic storytelling focuses on spotting true and meaningful stories that relate to a brand’s mission and are shared on a number of channels.
In this setup employees organization-wide share stories through agreed-upon channels to help the organization share stories authentically, consistently and constantly.
In a traditional command and control model, messages (not necessarily stories) would be written at one level, then send to another level to be approved for the appropriate messaging. This still works for many even today in 2014. Maybe too well at times.
But as channels and technologies continue to evolve this process will probably become more and more fluid.
In a true authentic storytelling set up:
- All employees are empowered to share their stories publicly.
- It’s encouraged and explicitly endorsed by leadership.
- Employees want to share their organizational stories. They feel connected and can’t wait to share their success stories.
Technology and authentic storytelling
Technology can help with authentic storytelling. The easier the technology is to use, the easier it will be for people to focus on storytelling instead of the barriers that technology is presenting. We only have so much brain power to focus on different things, so the more we can free up to think about authentic storytelling – instead of figuring out how to actually get the story published on the website, the more likely our storytelling strategy is to succeed.
Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO, famously wore the same clothes every day so he wouldn’t have to think about what to wear and could use that brain power on other things – like inventing the iPhone, for example.
Storytelling is scalable
Authentic organizational storytelling is mostly a mindset. Yes, we need the correct and easiest-to-use technology, but once that’s in place storytelling by all levels of an organization will only happen when it’s a lifestyle, part of the culture and explicitly endorsed and modeled by the organization’s leadership.