Chitra Ragavan

Why Technology Companies need Storytellers

Since the dawn of civilization, storytelling has driven human growth, movement, and progress. We are driven by narrative. It used to be cave drawings. Now we’re telling stories through social media. But figuring out a company’s story –– and telling it in a compelling way –– is challenging, given technology’s growing complexity.

The beauty of code

Technology and software products are living breathing creations of visionary entrepreneurs who deliver previously unimagined societal transformation through hidden lines of code that when done right, turn science into art and change the course of humanity. However, technology founders often struggle to convey their ambitious vision and their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) through compelling narrative, even to their own teams. Their stories are lost or buried under the pressures of turning code into marketable products that can scale with network effect resulting in profitability beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and change the world. Those are ultimately the goals of the people funding and supporting these ambitious ventures.

And without that unified narrative driving important conversations with internal and external stakeholders, including venture funds, company boards, and customers, these companies will end up on the ash heap of the 90 percent of startups that fail.

“If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all,” said Joseph Campbell, author of one of the most indispensable guides to mythology in storytelling, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

What’s your story?

The tao of narrative

At Goodstory, we are the architects of your narrative. We craft your story brick by brick, layer by layer, creating a strong foundation for success through our unique business narrative consulting and strategic storytelling framework. You can read more about our approach here.

Through in-depth storytelling sessions, we crystallize the often buried narratives underlying the original vision for a product or service. Then, working with the founders and their executive teams, often at the request of their investors and boards, we create the strategy to weave that found narrative into the DNA of the company’s product, recruiting and culture, and into all marketing, internal and external communications initiatives. Finally, we work with the founders and their teams and external resources to build a tailored tactical plan and guide the execution of the strategy. 

The ultimate goal is to use the power of narrative to transform a company from one that is splintered into organizational silos with disparate knowledge and understanding of the founders’ vision, into one that builds and launches products with unified intent and purpose. Mission-driven organizations that are rooted in narrative will aspire to new heights with renewed energy and fierce competitiveness. The impact is evident in the bottom line, in part through measurable transformation of the company culture and ability to attract top talent and, most importantly, investors.

Code that’s more than just coda

Software engineers want to work for such companies. They want to see their code provide true societal value. They want their code to kill enemies, cure diseases, prevent famines and droughts, end poverty and increase longevity.

At Goodstory, we build elements of social good into the product and narrative to help draw top engineering talent, differentiate products in this hyper-competitive market, and ultimately, to use technology to make the world a better place.

Beyond lipstick on a pig

Narrative management is not brand, risk, or crisis management, nor is it piecemeal public relations or communications efforts. It often includes one or more elements of all those services but really drills down to the core. Narrative consulting is a structured, proactive assessment and assembly of the story or stories that make up a company’s product, ethos, and culture to create a highly differentiated product and brand with a unique go-to-market strategy. 

Narrative as bulwark

This is also important from a defensive stance. Narrative can often serve as a lifeline when a company is under scrutiny.

Today, technology is increasingly viewed as a double-edged sword. Major companies such as Google, Facebook, Uber, and Tesla have seen the negative impact of losing their narrative, both internally and externally, in terms of eroded investor, employee, and shareholder goodwill, an increase in government investigations, loss of public support and in some instances, sanctions of the companies’ leadership.

With rapid technological evolution leading to the advent of artificial intelligence and robotics and the development of autonomous vehicles, there are complex economic, ethical, and moral questions surrounding these groundbreaking products. 

Visionary founders often don’t understand the true power of what they are building because their products grow and morph, like the living, breathing creations that they are. But these products can and already are in many instances resulting in the loss of human jobs and incomes and sometimes, even posing a potential risk to life and limb. And entire industries and sectors could eventually be wiped out from the economic grid as robots begin to replace humans in a variety of increasingly automated jobs. We all will have to rethink our roles and value proposition in this universe. There’s no doubting the power of our potential to write ourselves out of existence at every level. 

Perceptions drive products 

A large segment of today’s consumers are socially conscious millennials who can make or break a company’s reputation through their command of and willingness to use social media to promote those companies that they see as a force for good, and chastise those that they view as a force for evil. They’ll vote with their wallets, and the consequences can be delirious or devastating.

It’s more important today than ever before that founders and CEOs working on these transformational and often controversial products anticipate problems and communicate their principled stance on all these issues proactively to avoid having to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on reputation and crisis management when things go wrong, as they often do, when scaling visionary companies. 

“Sometimes reality is too complex,” the legendary filmmaker Jean Luc Godard once noted, “Stories give it form.”

Do you have a story to tell? Let’s talk.

Chitra Ragavan

Founder and CEO, Goodstory