Hi guys, tell us a bit about yourself
Abhay: Both Cori and I work globally with private and public sector organisations to design innovation programmes. Seven years ago, I started a workshop series to help people tell better stories and Cori’s been working with me for the last four. So far we’ve covered 12 countries and worked with an eclectic group of people: from senior management in multinationals to professionals from leading museums across the world. We’ve helped launch award-winning projects and we’re currently working on a global project powered by Google News Lab. We continue to collaborate with great organisations and we’re excited about our partnership with different who’re hosting the #BECAUSEInnovation Storytelling Lab in Berlin.
Could you explain what you mean by better innovation stories?
Cori: We’re all being pushed to tell stories online, whether we like it or not. As a result, there are lots of people producing content and adding to the white noise on social media or company intranets. We’re not all storytellers, but all of us need a clear narrative, especially when it comes to innovation. That’s what Abhay and I do - we help people craft powerful narratives to share their purpose, vision and values with authenticity.
What is the point of these stories?
Abhay: Every story needs a clear business outcome, which varies from organisation and sector. Media organisations want to capture attention and get more premium subscribers, corporations want to target new customers and understand changing behaviours, and museums want to drive more visitors to their blockbuster exhibitions. We connect innovation stories to a clear end-goal and help people tell these stories with integrity, which is so important in this post-truth age.
You mentioned that there are lots of people producing content all the time, so what is unique about the narratives you help craft?
Cori: Let’s assume you’re driving innovation within your organisation and want to share your bold vision with your colleagues and customers on a social platform. If you’re the only one who is doing the talking, then you’re just broadcasting information. We believe in inclusive narratives, where the audience can take ownership of the story and drive it forward without derailing it. We also create stories that work in a fragmented digital ecosystem, where your audience may be on many platforms and are engaging in different behaviours.
That sounds interesting, but why do corporations need this approach?
Cori: I’ve seen many examples of corporate innovators hitting a wall half-way through their innovation cycle and asking the question: Why am I doing this? This is when you need to define or refresh your innovation story - a narrative with purpose and punch to re-engage your internal stakeholders. That’s just one example. Sometimes you need a public innovation story to establish thought leadership, find early adopters or understand new consumer behaviours. We feel this approach is for organisations who see themselves as thought leaders.
Abhay: Organisations across all sectors are waking up to the rapid pace of change. Some progressive ones are putting innovation at the heart of their agenda. But their innovation programmes need a public narrative. In this context, storytelling is not about command and control. It’s about setting the right context, finding new communities and building trust and consensus.
Can you give us an example of how you’ve applied this approach?
Abhay: In 2015 we setup a Smart City innovation lab for the city of Leeds, which is the second largest local authority in the UK. Storytelling was at the heart of the project and we used this approach to build a fantastic team of entrepreneurs and work closely with many stakeholder groups. In just two years, we’ve addressed themes such as mobility, climate change and waste management, and developed solutions that support the wellbeing of residents whilst meeting the business outcomes of the organisation. That’s a pretty tricky balance to achieve. The Lab has also been named as one of UK’s 50 New Radical projects by the Observer newspaper and Nesta. Earlier this year, we won the Medipex Innovation Award. We’ll discuss this case study in detail in the workshop.
Thanks guys. So what can we expect in the workshop?
Abhay: People who are driving innovation often work with complex ideas. We’re going to look at different techniques to share these ideas as powerful narratives. We’ll take a strategic overview of good practice and the art of setting the context. We hope every participant will design an experiment to take charge of their own innovation story.
Cori: This is a workshop - not a presentation - so be prepared to lean in, and bring along your ideas for us to work with in the session. We take a structured approach, giving you lots of inspiration and best practise examples in order for you to work together in groups, in real time.