Business Storytelling and Jobs to be Done seem to have a lot in common

I thoroughly enjoyed Shawn Callahan’s Putting Stories to Work in which he describes how to teach companies to use storytelling to improve leadership and support decision making,  I was led to the book by exploring how Amazon uses Narratives (stories) instead of presentations to support meetings and Callahan provides a rich set of examples of why stories work better than just data, facts or opinions.

I have many takeaways from this book but the strongest is the observation that only better stories can change people’s minds.  We can see the impossibility of changing opinions simply by telling people they are wrong, so clearly, in the current craziness around politics, nationalism, tribalism and anti-vaxxing. 

Callahan maintains that we all tell ourselves stories (based on what we see and hear) and use these to be consistent in our actions and decisions.  Changing our minds requires us to replace these stories with others and that requires much more effort than simply throwing away the old ones; a new one needs to be better, stronger and create an emotional response.

When we hear a story (as opposed to seeing a powerpoint slide) we experience it; recreating what happened in our minds. If the story creates strong emotions then we feel the story and it has the chance to become something we remember and ideally pass on to others.

I was struck by the similarity between this idea and Jobs to be Done; (JTBD); the idea that we spend our time (and our shopping lives) looking for solutions to fundamental functional, emotional and social jobs.  

I don’t need a car, I need transport.  I don’t need a camera, I need to capture and share memories. I don’t need a Platinum Card, I need to feel I am a success.

When we find a solution that fits our Jobs to be Done, we fire the old solution and hire the new one. 

Putting Stories to Work suggests to me that every product needs to come with a story or set of stories that show me how this product or service meets my JTBD better than my current solution.  Simply telling me it is better or adding features will rarely work as the current story fits my current needs.  

Over the last few years I have, along with many others, used insights from customer interviews to explore opportunities for innovation and improved communication. Interviewing customers is about listening to detailed stories about what is happening in their lives and discerning the unfulfilled needs they are trying to solve.  This is not about asking what they want or even what they need but getting them to talk about what they are trying to do and listening for JTBD.

This book is a great reminder of the power of storytelling in the way we lead businesses, solve problems and meet customer needs. I will continue to use story gathering to uncover these needs but also need to enhance my storytelling skills to help people recognise the new opportunities and make the change from their previous solutions.


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