• Daniel Seewald

3 Things that Will Make Your Next Innovation Story Stick

3 Things that Will Make Your Next Innovation Story Stick

So what can we do? We deliberately design stories that last.

Over the past decade as an innovation designer and start-up mentor, I’ve had the opportunity to observe hundreds of teams design and pitch their stories to executives and investors. And only the ones who built their story with a deliberate design are remembered and talked about the next day.

Here are 3 things that have consistently made a story stick and you can apply right away for your next story.

Design the Finish before You Start

Gone with the Wind, one of the most famous novels and films of the 20th century was constructed backwards. Why would the author, Margaret Mitchell, do this? Because beginning with the end in mind forces the storyteller to maintain focus and stay on a clear and purposeful path. The start of a well-designed story signals to your listener where they are headed and whether it’s worth continuing to listen. But often storytellers forget to lead the listener at the very outset. This is the #1 problem that I routinely see in corporate storytelling. Steve Jobs put it best when he said that “you cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” So if you want to deliberately build a great story, don’t start at the start, begin with your end.

Get Me to Care Right Away

Recycling is hard to get people to care about. Although most people agree that it is important, less than a 1/3 of people actually do it. Friends of the Earth, a European non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the natural world, set out to rewrite that narrative by changing the way people emotionally connected with recycling. After many failed attempts to inveigle people to listen to the traditional fact-based recycling story, they retold it as a Romeo and Juliet love story between two star-crossed milk containers. Having used this video in numerous workshops, I have witnessed countless people sniffling back their tears and lunging for the Kleenex as they watch a milk container get tossed on the trash heap. Yes! Crying over a milk container in public. By humanizing your story it creates involvement and gets your audience to care. And when your audience cares, your story is transformed from a set of facts and into a lasting experience.

Sprinkle the Magic of the Unexpected

Our brains are hardwired to seek and find patterns. And we love to make predictions. That’s why your friend sitting next to you at the movie theater might feel inclined to blurt out that they know exactly what’s going to come next. It’s instinctual. And that is also precisely why the magic of the unexpected can be so powerful in creating lasting stories. That is how a Southwest airlines flight attendant five years ago turned the pre-flight safety instruction into a lasting and memorable story that has been viewed more than a million times on Youtube. Rather than follow the ordinary protocol for conveying the “Safety Instruction Story”, he decided to tap into the unexpected and turned the instructions into a rap song. A plane load of ambivalent passengers put down their iPhones and crossword puzzles and listened to the details of the flight instruction. Delivering your story in an unexpected way keeps your listener’s attention and makes the details of the story highly memorable.

Story telling is an art form that transcends time and medium. Whether it’s a story on parchment or on twitter, the great storytellers have utilized the same principles to steal their listener’s attention. So for your next meeting with your boss or your next big client pitch, think about applying any or all of these three principles to make your story stick.

Dan Seewald

To find out more about Deliberate Innovation, please contact me to discuss.


Phone: 201.724.9111

© 2019 Dan Seewald. Created by Design With Artisan

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