Up your storytelling game

The most undervalued skill in the game

People treat being an entrepreneur as an attribute – a mere description of someone.

It's not accurate. Being an entrepreneur is a profession. Like being a plumber or a developer, this profession has tradecraft that must be mastered to achieve long term, repeat success.

One of the most undervalued skills in the entrepreneur’s tool bag is storytelling.

Yes. 1000%, it’s storytelling.

I have watched many wonderful projects die on the vine because of the lack of ability in the founder, team leader, or product manager to tell a simple story.

Calling it poor communication is disrespectful to storytelling – which is in the family of communications – and is very difficult to do.

All the greats are fantastic storytellers – their strongest skill. I’ll argue it’s one of the skills that separate them from the rest of the pack.

Too many of us are depending on, praying for, our new thing to be obvious to people.

Sure, you can’t build crappy things that are hard for people to understand, but sometimes the imagination of your audience needs a little push to get going in the direction you want them to go.

I mean, look, if I asked for you to recall the details of either the last 50-slide report-out you had to sit through or the details of the last Pixar movie you watched, which one would you be able to tell me the most about?

Pixar by a mile.

Some are going to say that it’s the animation or the music that does it – as if what keeps your slide deck from greatness is better to clip art.

It’s the story. The arc. The lows. The triumphs. The heartbreak. The loss. Love. It’s the fact that something in that story connected and resonated within you – that’s the hook.

I wish I can tell you building things people love was formulaic. But it’s not a numbers game.

In my opinion, storytelling is the biggest reason (not the only reason, just the biggest) that innovation in the enterprise is typically a losing proposition; and why startups in the wild have yet another natural advantage.

Great stories are passionate. They are irreverent. They color outside the lines a bit. They have twists and turns, and unexpected can be expected. They are full of love and hate. They speak their mind and the hard truth always rules.

Your typical corporate conference room isn’t the kind of place where love – real love – can be talked about.

Now, in a startup, sometimes all you have is love. And hate. And all the other emotions that bury these stories forever in the audience's life experience.

This is just another competitive edge startups in the wild have.

It’s also something corporations can fix; and if they do, gives an enormous advantage over its competitors. But, if we are being honest, many won’t consider it for a second.

Storytelling is about emotions, vulnerability, and connecting as humans. All things that are checked at the door in businesses of all sizes.

Telling a story isn’t safe. It exposes you. This is why it’s just a great leading indicator of the soul of an organization.

Many businesses exist without a soul – the vast majority, in my opinion. That’s fine. They have a purpose, but they won’t make a dent in the universe.

All of this is to say, if you want to build new things and have those things live amongst the greats, then you need to figure out storytelling.

Being a great storyteller is a rare trait, but a very learnable skill. By working on this part of the tradecraft, you will be putting yourself and the things you build at an enormous advantage.

Remember, people off the top of their head can’t remember their best friend’s address, but they know who lives at 42 Wallaby Way in Sydney.