Insight article

Working more smartly: inspiring innovation culture through stories

Cultivating cross-company collaboration

From time-to-time, any company can experience a slump. One international carrier, facing intensifying competition and increasing change fatigue across the organisation, was seeking to reinvigorate their flagging financial and cultural fortunes. To do so, they knew that engaging and empowering their entire workforce was imperative, while also encouraging them to ‘work more smartly’. How did they achieve this? By using the immense connective power of stories.

An introvert’s ingenuity

In any organisation, there are diamonds in the rough – ingenious individuals whose capacity to create meaningful change is unlimited. Some, however, are hidden deep in that rough, buried by bureaucracy or too shy to be seen. Yet the executive decision to use stories to bring people together helped our competition-challenged carrier to make the most of one introvert’s ingenuity.

Each week, the company allotted half an hour of working time designed for internal storytelling – a time when employees were asked to listen to, and learn from, each other. 

During one such workshop, it became clear that shy Keith Mallard possessed a passion for creating spreadsheets – a passion that had him fiddling with formulas and tinkering with tables into his evenings and weekends. Recognizing that his talent might help the company make major efficiency savings, Mr. Mallard was asked to apply his talents to help the company be smarter.

A culture change

The diamond now uncovered, Mr. Mallard’s spreadsheet didn’t just offer thousands of pounds of short-term efficiency savings (though it did that, too) – it also became an enduring part of our carrier’s culture, retaining long-term value as one of the company’s go-to spreadsheets. But the impact went beyond inspiring one increase in efficiency in one area of the company. In fact, storytelling offered employees across the organisation the chance to share best practice, inspire new ways of working, and create learning opportunities every single week: an innovation culture, driven by storytelling.

The results were remarkable. After two years of losses – nine-figure losses! – the carrier was able to report a £15 million profit shortly after implementation of their storytelling program. Yet the power of stories was as personally valuable as it was pragmatically so. Enhanced employee morale and engagement was visible in both an 11% year-on-year fall in staff turnover and a decline in absenteeism: an enduring testament to the power of stories to connect, create, transform, and inspire. 

To discover how storytelling can transform your business, download our e-book, Storytelling: how to reset an organisation’s narrative to inspire change

Jack Moran


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