Design Thinking  | 4 MIN. READ

How To Use Storytelling To Drive Successful Business Transformations

Andrew Webster, February 13, 2019

How To Use Storytelling To Drive Successful Business Transformations70 percent of organizations reporting that they have a digital transformation strategy in place or in development, according to a 2018 Tech Pro Research survey. Yet the results continue to be unimpressive. In the finance and retail industries, only 30 percent of transformation projects deliver successful outcomes, according to a 2018 Fujitsu survey. Other industries, including transportation, manufacturing, and healthcare, see even lower returns on these efforts.

So what separates the leaders from everyone else?

The Stories Behind Success

At ExperiencePoint, we work with many organizations that are putting design thinking at the heart of their transformation efforts, and we’ve found one factor often differentiates success from failure — communication.

When talking about their transformation projects, the least successful teams tend to focus on what they spent, whereas the most successful teams talk about the impact they’ve had and the value it generated. That subtle but important shift makes all the difference.

Executives who sponsor transformation projects, and the budgets to support them, care about business results. When they hear a story about how a transformation team is driving employee engagement, cutting time to market, or saving the business money, their interest is instantly piqued.

However, too often the teams leading these projects are anchored in HR, learning and development, or IT — traditional cost centers that are often unaccustomed to speaking the language of the business. They talk about their projects in terms of resources rather than business results. Unless they can shift their mindset to focus on outcomes, and how to gather the data and stories needed to effectively communicate those outcomes, these transformation projects won’t get off the ground.

It’s not enough to simply tell these teams how to communicate, they need to build capabilities in how to think differently about their work, and how to frame their efforts in terms of a problem solved, and results generated.

Then they need to be encouraged to step outside of the confines of their siloed teams to build networks with “catalysts” throughout the organization who have compelling transformation stories to share. Catalysts are the flag wavers and culture carriers in the company who enthusiastically embrace a new way of solving problems, and support other teams in adopting new ways of doing things. They often lead in-house training and workshops, and informally mentor others to help them find new ways to be innovative.

Because catalysts are so engaged in the transformation process they possess a wealth of data and anecdotes about how change is driving value for the business. When these catalysts are connected to the team leading the transformation effort, those stories are able to bubble up to the top of the organization where they help drive future support.

The Power Of A Single Story

We recently helped a Fortune 500 company in Europe adopt design thinking as part of a transformation effort in the way it developed and launched new products. Prior to working with ExperiencePoint, when the company wanted to test a product, it would place hundreds of cases of it at several stores over several weeks then track the sales results as a measure of customer interest.

After the design thinking training, the team decided to abandon that approach, and instead to meet with a core group of consumers to share the product porotypes, then observe their reaction and capture their feedback. This enabled them to gather detailed customer data in two hours with a handful of products, rather than spending weeks waiting to review broad data about sales trends.

When the team reported this story back to leadership, they succinctly framed the problem and solution, then focused on the results — that using this design thinking method saved the company hundreds of thousands of Euros and allowed them to gather more meaningful data in one afternoon than they could through a month or more of in-store product testing. They immediately won the executives’ attention cost savings and were able to secure additional funding for future projects.

Teaching teams how to frame projects in terms of outcomes and value, and helping them build networks of catalysts to mine these powerful stories, are key to driving successful transformation efforts. In these projects speed is everything, because when transformation efforts stall, excitement is replaced by cynicism, and supporters move on to other things. Success stories told in the right context can be the accelerant you need to keep transformation efforts moving forward so you can deliver on those transformation goals.


Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.

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Andrew Webster

VP of Transformation at ExperiencePoint. Andrew leverages over 15 years of experience designing and delivering working models, design sprints, change interventions and training programs to develop and apply user-centric problem solving approaches and solutions. Andrew has worked with global organizations including Walmart, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, MetLife and Microsoft. He has also taught executives at leading universities, including Harvard Business School and IMD.

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