Building performance through storytelling

Chlorophyll's co-founder Kiran Khalap on how Indranil Chakraborty's book will inspire employees

Published 5 years ago on Dec 09, 2018 3 minutes Read

Dr Karl-Erik Sveiby, often described as one of the ‘founding fathers’ of Knowledge Management, famously said, “Organisations compete in two markets: for clients and for talented people.”

The problem is, even after your organisation has attracted the best talent, how do you keep them inspired? Especially the restless Millennials?

And what about the not-so-talented but devoted workhorses who have supported your organisation for decades, how do you get them to change their behaviour in order to meet the challenges of a VUCA world?

It is behavioural change that defines the fulcrum of success in business today, in an era where all businesses have become ‘service’ businesses due to social media.

How to achieve behaviour change at all levels?

Indranil Chakraborty, with his decades of experience at Unilever and the Tata and Mahindra Groups, has a startling tool as an answer: storytelling.

His book, ‘Stories at Work’ is an indispensable handbook for professional managers, CEOs, HR heads in large organisations as well as leaders-in-a-hurry in small start-ups.


Because, IC, as he is famously known, presents incontrovertible proof that the ‘science of storytelling’ can change behaviour like no PowerPoint presentation can, even if it’s stuffed to the gills with data.

Stories at Work is a rich mix of, well, stories, and science, of reason and emotion, of the left-side and the right side of the brain, of the macro view and the micro view.

IC presents the neurological roots (E.g.: neural coupling) of storytelling and more important, story-listening. He presents data to support how stories inspire action. He explains the concept of anti-stories, that product of cynical minds as well as intelligent minds, and how to tackle them.

In doing so, IC explains the complex relationships between the four Ws and the one H.

He explains how ‘why, what and how’ are opinion-generating, while ‘when and where’ are story generating.

But the ‘why’ of storytelling itself is beyond doubt: there are clear five advantages to storytelling in a business context.

You will discover answers with examples to familiar contexts of cascading a new strategy, aligning employee behaviour to organisational values, managing change, and even creating an energised sales force.

We are familiar with the ‘half-life of messaging’: the number of days it takes for all receivers to forget half of what they heard, leave alone practise! Storytelling can change that. We are familiar with a new HR head attempting to align employee behaviour through workshops that don’t seem to work: storytelling can change that. And yes, creating a winning sales force can also be achieved through the science of storytelling. The book showcases how winning organisations like Ritz-Carlton harness this new tool.

What is also commendable (which is why I refer to it as a handbook) is that the book does not stop at providing a glimpse of this new science: it actually teaches you, if you are serious enough that is, how to become a story-listener, how to become a storyteller; how to hoard and harvest stories; how to create a storytelling organisation.

Is there anything more we could have asked for from a book? Yes. Visuals of the positivity IC has spread through over 1,500 senior executives trained by him, since 2013. How did the teams feel AFTER they attended the sessions? How did anybody feel?

But that’s carping: if you wish to open a new door to organisational change, start by reading a copy of Stories at Work.

I did.