Business storytelling has emerged as a great tool for organizational training and motivation exercise. Michael Margolis is among the topmost business storyteller in the world and his venture Get Storied has some of the best and most respected organizations as clients. In an interaction with Rajesh Mehta, Consulting Editor, ‘Governance Today,’ Michael talks about his story, his passions and what he finds amazing about India. Edited excerpts:
Could you tell us your story and how you founded Get Storied? Who are your top clients and what do you do for them?
My work as a business storyteller began in 2002, long before it’s fast rise as a current trend. I’m trained as a cultural anthropologist, so I’ve always been fascinated with people, communications, and meaning-making process of life – and business. In my first career, I was a social entrepreneur in the NGO sector, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation at the age of 23. Within a couple years, as many startups do, it all fell apart. When the dust settled, I was drawn to business storytelling. Specifically – innovation, and why some ideas stick, yet most are lost in translation. Truthfully, what also brought me to this work was my own insecurities and social awkwardness growing up as an ex-pat geek in both Switzerland and Los Angeles. I’ve always been good with words and big ideas, yet paradoxically would find myself tongue tied and twisted when faced with a skeptical audience. So my work with storytelling is deeply personal.
Today, our clients include many leading enterprises: Google, TATA, Deloitte, SAP, Bloomberg, NASA, and Greenpeace to name a few. We deliver corporate training programs on storytelling — related to innovation adoption, business transformation, and brand marketing. Sometimes we’re teaching engineer managers how gain buy-in support for large change initiatives. Other times, we’re coaching enterprise sales managers on the art of B2B storytelling. Increasingly, we spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs helping them hone their pitch and better use data in storytelling.
In addition to the corporate sector, we have public programs for entrepreneurs and trusted advisors who want to harness the power of storytelling in their work and message. This includes online courses, a membership platform, and a conference for the field of business storytelling.
We also have a free 5-part email course that serves as an introduction – www.getstoried.com/redpill
Where does India fit into your storytelling? Has India had any influence on you?
Since the age of 19, I’ve been a humble student of yoga. Almost 20 years now. And while I’ve studied many forms of Asana practice, my deeper relationship is with the Vedas, and yogic philosophy such as Kashmir Shaivanism, the Pashupati path, and Swami Kripalvananda.
I’ve been in India now for almost two months, starting with 25 days of Ayurvedic Pancha Karma in Kerala. Then in January, I launched my #StoryWorldTour in India, with public storytelling seminars in Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai. I’ll also be back in India at the end of June 2016 for another few weeks of teaching across the same three cities. I’ll also be in North America, Australia, and Europe throughout the rest of the year.
India is a great teacher. Western business culture tends to compartmentalize the human spirit. Whereas in India, there is more appreciation for the sacred, emotional, and social impact dimensions of life, even in the board room. Of course, this is a big generalization. Though many of the business executives and entrepreneurs I have met in India, in large part, hold this wider view. It’s no surprise that best-selling author and mythologist Devdutt Pattaniak has struck such a chord, bringing forward the classic tales of India into a modern business context.
There is a sincerity here in India, a heart-centered approach to life that lends itself to the 21st century. As the world increasingly becomes flat, and we are more interconnected, relationships will continue to be the lifeblood of commerce. And storytelling has always been about the relationship between things.
How has Chocolate influenced your storytelling?
Well, in fairness, chocolate is really just a passion hobby. Or perhaps more accurately, an obsession. I grew up in Switzerland as a child, and my father worked for Nestle for many years, so I like to joke that chocolate is my birthright. In my adult years, I began to collect chocolate the way some people collect wine, and for years now I host epic chocolate tasting parties around the world.
How does all of this relate to the storytelling? I call it the Chocolate Secret. Not a week goes by where I don’t receive an email, a tweet, or facebook message from a “stranger” who uses chocolate as the ice-breaker. You could say chocolate has become a signature calling card for me. A tragedy, right? But in seriousness, we should all consider having something personal we love become what we’re known for. It could be how you look: like Steve Jobs dress uniform of black shirt and blue jeans, or your love for the NY Jets like social media personality Gary Vaynerchuck. Pick something, and make it your Chocolate Secret.
“The resume is dead. The bio is the King”. What do you mean by this?
Google is the new background check. How many times do you Google someone before a business meeting? In the U.S., 75% of HR departments Google their candidates as part of the job selection process. Many people think that they’re hired based on their credentials. Yet, a thousand if not a million others have the exact same credentials on their resumes. Truth is, you’re hired for your story. Whether that story happens to be that the boss is friends with your uncle, or the story is that you’d make the perfect match in the organization, based on your personality, skills, and ideas.
Because of the Internet, the story matchmaking process begins, long before you ever meet in person. The professional bio is where the story begins. And people experience your story online often long before they connect with you face to face. The place to start is your LinkedIn profile, followed by the About page of your blog if you have one, Twitter, Facebook, etc…And it’s why we created The New About Me, one of our best-selling online courses to teach people how to write a professional bio using storytelling principles. We also offer a complimentary 60-minute webinar on the topic for those interested – www.getstoried.com/storywebinar
What are your comments of the new startup initiative launched by Prime Minister Modi?
This is a huge historical moment for the entrepreneurial culture of India. Indians pay great attention to their elders and leaders. So an endorsement at the highest levels of government, in support of entrepreneurship will go a long way towards inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs.
Being an entrepreneur is a difficult and often lonely journey. Your family and friends don’t often understand your vision and the sacrifices required. Prime Minister Modi’s initiative now makes entrepreneurship a fully recognized patriotic act.
Not only will this benefit the economy and society, it will also empower ordinary citizens to aspire for more in their lives. To look beyond the birth circumstances of their life, and find opportunities to create something where a need is unmet. That is the spirit of entrepreneurship. A powerful force of self-empowerment. No matter who you are, and where you’re from, you can create something that matters for others.
Entrepreneurship is the ultimate exercise in storytelling. You see something others don’t see. Your job is to figure out a way to communicate what you see, in a way that others get it, and meaningfully benefit from what you offer.
The stories we tell make the world. So make sure you have a story to tell.