Olympic opening ceremony last night. It was an extraordinary display; a great love letter to our country. For me the thing that really elevated it from spectacular to oh-my-god-so-bloody-uber-amazingly-spectacular was the rich storytelling.
Danny Boyle crafted a story that is familiar to us (about our modern history) but told it in such a beautiful way that you couldn't help but be captivated. From the first scene change, the rolling green hills disappearing under the satanic mills of the industrial revolution, the audience could anticipate the story arc; but that only added to the sense of drama.
The tiny details - the poppies swaying in the breeze, the torch under the bed covers - contrasted with the big bang moments, enhancing the story further. One of my favourite authors Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said: "If you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants in the sky, people will probably believe you." That stuck with me as a journalist and I think about it often in my current role; the beauty (and the devil) is in the detail.
Storytelling is a skill as old as speech itself and yet its power remains. That power is why successful storytelling is fundamental to employee engagement. In fact David MacLeod identified creating a strong, strategic narrative as one of the enablers of engagement in his seminal study, Engage For Success.
Using stories, repeating them and embedding them as a narrative within organisations helps connect people with purpose. Usually great organisational stories tell themselves and they follow a familiar plot: we were like this, then we did this and now we're like this.
One of my favourite stories about Wolverhampton Homes is that before we were created, when the Audit Commission inspected the housing service, they said if there was a rating below zero stars they would have given it. That's how bad we were. That story - and the relentless hard work and drive in between - was why it was all the sweeter to be rated excellent with excellent prospects for improvement when we were inspected in 2010.
We've told our story in numerous ways internally and externally. It makes staff feel proud of their contribution and the journey we've come on. The fact we could achieve that inspires us to think what more we can achieve in the future and how much further we can improve things for tenants.
As Danny Boyle now knows more than ever, storytelling has the power to inspire a generation.