“I want to share stories, but I just don’t have any good stories to tell!”
Many of the individuals and organizations for whom I consult are simultaneously enthusiastic about using stories strategically to grow their business, yet discouraged by their perceived lack of good story material. They say, “I’ve been in this business for fifteen years, yet I don’t feel like I have any great story ideas that people would want to hear!”
I’ve found that every person and organization has fascinating stories, and StoryMining with facilitated curious questioning helps unearth them. As the name suggests, StoryMining is a method to systematically sift through personal and professional experiences for content that can be polished and refined into complete stories. StoryMining shines a light on areas that are authentic, demonstrable strengths. It’s an exercise in deep self-evaluation, not unlike intensive coaching or organizational reviews like SWOTs and annual retreats. Your stories are your brand DNA, revealing your real identity. StoryMining is a bottoms-up approach that connects you to your competitive advantage. For example, if the StoryMining process uncovers a consistent pattern of many innovation and trust stories, chances are that your current perceived brand equity resides in innovation and trust. StoryMining is a bit of work, but the results are well worth the effort, which is why it’s a key step in every Seven Story Learning project. Those who know their own stories will stand out from the competition!
StoryMining has helped many:
An educational institution highlighted stories of success and leadership across the organization.
An experienced VP of HR told how she’s been able to lead large divisions of a multinational through complex and confusing change.
A medical professional shared in a much clearer way how the innovative techniques he’s developed at his company help people live more productively.
An entrepreneur showed how she’s really been in the motivation business, not the product business, for the past fifteen years.
So how do you begin StoryMining? Ironically, I’ve learned that telling people to “go look for stories” is not very helpful. In fact, if we go looking for “stories,” chances are that we’ll find a couple of stories and miss many good nuggets in the process. This is because fully structured stories are a state of mind, a way of framing and understanding a series of events, and story nuggets don’t always look like that. Instead, we look in seven areas, with an eye for conflicts. Problems are the key to stories! It can be uncomfortable to talk about problems. However, the secret to finding and building compelling stories is recognizing how you and your organization have overcome conflicts.
The “Seven F’s exercise” is a brainstorming tool designed to get clients in StoryMining mode. For every project, client, job, relationship, etc, ask the following seven questions and jot down the basic conflict or idea. Keep it very simple; no need to build stories yet. The seven categories might overlap; they’re just a great place to start. Plan to spend several hours individually and as a team for thorough StoryMining. For large organizations, we coordinate the steps over a few weeks. Here’s the exercise at a high level:
|The Seven “F”s||Questions to Ask|
Stories are too important to the success of your business to leave to chance. So before you think, “I just don’t have any good stories,” consider StoryMining. With a little effort, you may be pleasantly surprised at the compelling story nuggets that you find! The best of the lot can be developed into a formal StoryBank for sales, marketing and more.
*Gold nugget photo courtesy of Frau Vogel