'There Must Be Some Way Out of Here,' Said the Joker to the Thief: Unlock the Power of Storytelling

David Smith

Patrick Young


Storytelling in business is firmly on the agenda. There has been a surge in the demand for storytelling and, importantly, storytellers. Stories help us to explain the big picture and leave a message that sticks. Yet telling a story remains one of the biggest challenges facing market research today. This paper unravels the secrets of the storyteller's craft: find a unifying theme; apply intelligent structures for conveying complexity; and engage your audience's emotion in unfolding your business story.


The challenge of effectively communicating our insights has been on the agenda for some time. As Jeremy Bullmore once said,'having mined an insight, be as insistent as the diamond trade that once out of the earth, it be cut and polished and made to glitter and inspire.' But, in the last few years, there has been a surge in the demand for storytelling and storytellers. Organisations as varied as 3M, Xerox and NASA are all turning to stories as a way of communicating to the customer, the boardroom and their employees (Pink, 2006). Poynter (2009), in a study on the elements that make for a good market research presentation, highlights the demand for debriefs and presentations that'tell a story', and do not just recite the data. He identified a recurrent theme to good presentations:'Telling the story behind the numbers, and making the output come alive.' The best presentations, suggests Poynter, are a'well balanced sum of everything – an appealing way of telling an interesting story.'