Storytelling. It’s not just for campfires and young children’s classrooms anymore.
It’s a method of communication that engages the listener and teaches or persuades them, often without them even realizing it. It’s been recognized for a while in the business world as a strategic tool, as evidenced by these headlines:
▪From Bedtime to the Boardroom: Why Storytelling Matters in Business (Entrepreneur, 11 April 2015)
▪The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool (Harvard Business Review, 11 March 2014)
▪Storytelling: The New Strategic Imperative of Business (Forbes, 04 April 2016)
Which keywords pop out at you from those three articles above? To me, I see the words strategic, imperative, and matters. What else is strategic, imperative, and very much matters? Information Security.
So, why isn’t the InfoSec industry embracing storytelling as a tool? Perhaps the easy answer is that storytelling can arguably fall more into that “soft skill” realm which is dreaded by many tech-brained persons. But, the reality is that communication skills are vital to InfoSec jobs, whether that communication be solely among your team, or externally with end users, vendors, or executives.
My wish for the InfoSec community is that more people embrace improved communication and storytelling skills, whether it be written or oral communication. Many of the challenges we face as InfoSec professionals stems from end user behavior or resistance from executives or other departments who don’t understand what we do. If we all got better at communicating, some of those misunderstands or confusion could eventually be alleviated. We do a pretty good job communicating with each other as InfoSec pros, let’s take the next step and put in an effort to communicate with the people around us who are consumers of the security we manage.
It could also help your career. N
The skill Jason Haddix described there is storytelling. Notice I called it a skill, versus something innate. Sure, some people will be more naturally gifted storytellers. Some cultures and tribes have long traditions of skilled storytelling as a craft. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn and hone this skill just as you learned and honed a programming language or other technical ability.
Think of a story as a mnemonic device for complex ideas. – Annette Simmons
To get you started, here are some resources to put you on the path to being able to persuade, influence, encourage, support, and educate people through weaving words into storytelling.
- 10 Best TEDtalks on Storytelling
- Effective Storytelling: A Manual for Beginners
- Intro to Storytelling: How to Wow Your Crowd
- Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
- Write to Influence (book)
- Writing to Influence (blog)
Humans simply aren’t moved to action by ‘data dumps,’ dense PowerPoint slides, or spreadsheets packed with figures. People are moved by emotion. The best way to emotionally connect other people to our agenda begins with “Once upon a time…” – Jonathan Gottschall
Where does your story begin?