• Friday, June 14, 2024

Interview with Jyoti Guptara, Author of "Business Storytelling From Hype To Hack"

on Aug 29, 2022
Business Storytelling from Hype To Hack

Listed among the 100 most influential people in Switzerland, JYOTI GUPTARA is an internationally recognized speaker and business storytelling consultant. Having worked with start-ups, medium-sized companies, and Fortune 500 companies, he has helped leaders on five Continents to experience more success with less stress.


Frontlist: How is business storytelling different from typical storytelling? 

Jyoti: Business Storytelling simply means using stories to accomplish business goals. Sometimes it looks like telling an actual story, usually between thirty seconds and two minutes. At other times, it’s more about applying narrative principles to help people understand and receive a message. For example, using a messaging framework to structure your content in a psychologically appealing manner. Business stories may on occasion entertain, but they must at all times enlighten. In a business context, every story should make a point. 

Frontlist: How has your experience as a Fiction Writer-Turned-Business Storytelling Consultant aided leaders in integrating fictional stories into the business world? 

Jyoti: While it’s rare for a business leader to use actual fiction references, my decade as a full-time novelist gave me a good grasp of story techniques that made people want to listen to any message. A novelist’s creativity especially pays dividends when it comes to creative communication, such as when business leaders need to use metaphors and analogies to paint a clear picture. Currently, I’m helping some large organizations with change management and strategy communication in Virtual Reality, sometimes in fictional settings.

Frontlist: An exercise section is at the end of each topic in your book. What was your approach to designing exercises related to the subject matter? 

Jyoti: The exercises at the end of each chapter are designed to cut short the learning curve that always accompanies mastering a new skill. When people start consciously trying to remember useful anecdotes for business, for instance, they often end up staring at a blank page. The subconscious often requires a more indirect approach. After years of trial and error, these are some of the exercises my coaching clients have found the most useful.

Frontlist: According to you, every feedback, whether negative or positive, should be perceived as positive motivation since it helps our personal growth. Kindly share your first-hand experience to resonate with the answer. 

Jyoti: I learned just as much about Storytelling from giving talks as I did writing, because I’d get feedback in real-time from audiences that let me know whether a certain line or technique worked. I remember when I was 18 years old, giving my first major talk in front of an audience of 800 people, and I bombed! I lost my audience because I was trying to sound smart, but it was much too abstract. Fortunately, I told one good story. After the speech, everyone who approached me mentioned what they had learned from the story, and they had evidently forgotten all the other points I had tried to make. Similarly, getting negative book reviews was painful but sometimes helped with knowing what people were looking for. Of course, you do have to know when to take negative feedback with a grain of salt.

Frontlist: Why do people require stories to comprehend things? How has storytelling affected the evolution of our comprehension abilities? 

Jyoti: According to cognitive scientists, the story is the currency of thought, or as I put it, the software of the mind. We instinctively tell stories when we want people to understand our deeper motives or learn something important. Why? Because we are shaped by experiences. In life and business, a story is the next best thing to personal experience. The brain is an experience simulator. At a subconscious level, we cannot fully differentiate between the real and the imagined. We participate in the story. This way, your experience can become mine. There is no better way to synch minds.

Frontlist: How imperative is it to acquire business storytelling skills to become a business leader? 

Jyoti: In today’s competitive and information-saturated environment, it is increasingly important for business leaders to lead effectively by using stories to motivate and equip their workforce, as well as to align stakeholders. That’s why recently several top business publications have described Storytelling as “the number 1 business skill” and an increasing number of business schools are starting to include “narrative competence” in the curriculum, though in my experience many introduce it only briefly and in theory, rather than helping executives off to a running start. So there’s lots of room for improvement. I recently taught at a Swiss business school and the feedback was: that this was a great module, but we need to spend twice as much time on Storytelling and have it much earlier since it would have helped with everything else throughout the term.

Frontlist: Since the business world is subsumed with the digital world nowadays. How can a well-defined story have enough power to increase sales in this fast-technology world? 

Jyoti: Technology is constantly changing, but the human brain is the same. The more the “noise” of digital information, the more appealing the “melody” of the story. Differentiation and clarity are essential, and these are best communicated in story structures, which make instant sense to us. That’s why a lot of small and medium-sized companies report tripling their online leads after storifying their website.

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