July 31, 2018
July 31, 2018
We are in the midst of unprecedented corporate change. This is most likely brought about by the rise of technology, disruption to markets and changing expectation of customers. Yet the vast majority of changes in business fail. The common figure cited is approximately 70%. While this is almost impossible to prove, it has been the standard reference for decades. The figure most likely came about in 2008 via John Kotter when he wrote in his book, A Sense of Urgency:
‘From years of study, I estimate today more than 70 per cent of needed change either fails to be launched, even though some people clearly see the need, fails to be completed, even though some people exhaust themselves trying, or finishes over budget, late and with initial aspirations unmet.’
It is no surprise that organisations faced with this daunting figure are looking for better ways to implement change. They know that they can have the best strategy in the world but if their people do not understand it, are not engaged by it or don’t feel connected to it, it will fail.
Storytelling is deservedly becoming known as a critical way to lead people through change. Stories are a powerful communication tool because they help people understand and create a connection to the message.
What’s more, stories create an emotional impact. This is powerful in two ways. Firstly, our brains process emotions before rational thought. Emotion not only precedes rational thought but it is processed at a much faster rate.
Secondly, there are two structures in the brain that are mainly responsible for long-term memory. Both are found in the emotional area of the brain. When we feel a strong connection to something it increases the chances of it being embedded in our long-term memory. It is why most people can recall where they were and what they were doing when they hear emotional news. For example, Princess Diana’s death or the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
When it comes to change, most organisations fail as they communicate with a focus only on the rational and ignore the power of emotion. This is why we are seeing an increase of organisations using storytelling as a way to communicate and lead change. They know that authentic, purposeful stories create an emotional connection. This can have an immediate positive impact on understanding and engagement.