The frog design Mind-Late Spring 2007 newsletter (Click here for newsletter) came yesterday in my email, and I always love to unwrap the newsletter and take a bite. The first article I read was by Adam Richardson and it was an interview with Gary Erickson, founder/owner of Clif Bar. (Click here for article). If you haven’t seen the newsletter it is pretty awesome, and chock full of content.
In the interview Erickson runs the gammut in what he talks about, covering the founding of the company, struggles, mistakes, company culture, bucking the status quo, strategy, and innovation. He covers a lot of ground, and it’s very interesting to learn from his hindsight. Particularly because his hindsight is narrative, he tells stories. One statement he made regarding stories really stuck out to me because it aligns so much with the ideas in Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. (If you’re not familiar with Made to Stick, John Moore over at Brand Autopsy has a great breakdown of the book here.)
Here is the question, and answer:
“You use analogies, especially from sports and climbing, to talk about what you do and why you do it. What is the value of analogies in communicating what Clif stands for?
A challenge is how do you keep your original story authentic as you grow, and keep it alive. I think a lot of companies become all about the bottom line, and they don’t carry their original story with them.
For me, stories are useful for a couple of reasons. First is, I’m not very technical when it comes to business. I can talk a bit of techno-language and theory, but it’s boring. Second, people relate to and remember stories. Their eyes roll back in their heads when you start talking theory, but stories are engaging. People are inspired by stories and parables.”(quoted from frog design mind late spring 2007)
Now, I don’t know if Erickson has read Made to Stick, but he’s right on. Especially the part about the business techno-language, the Heath’s would probably call it the Curse of Knowlege, either way one thing is paramount. Yes, we can all speak it, but to a larger audience, it just doesn’t communicate. I know I do, sometimes I’ll just babble on to a friend about who knows what regarding business, and soon enough their eyes glaze over..and I catch myself. But what if I could communicate all that babbling in a format that was easy to remember?
A couple phrases above stick out to me, “People relate to and remember stories….stories are engaging…..people are inspired by stories and parables. “
So the action step for me is how can I better share ideas in stories? If we want people to remember X,Y,Z, if we can find, or create an engaging story we’re probably a lot better off. Secondly, I’m part of a growing start-up company. As we grow, how can we communicate our core ideas to our customers and employees. According to the voice of experience above, it’s in stories.
I wonder what do other companies do to communicate that vision? What do you do?