AI Transformation Through Storytelling

The best way to communicate your intentions of transforming into an AI-enabled enterprise is through storytelling. Evolutionary psychologists tell us storytelling is the most effective way of influencing. Your story doesn’t have to be that long to be powerful.

On November 19, 1863, a crowd of 15,000 gathered in Gettysburg to hear Edward Everett. He was one of the greatest orators of the time. Mr. Everett spoke for two hours about the events that had transpired during the famous battle. When he finished, Abraham Lincoln rose to deliver a brief two-minute postscript. Lincoln’s remarks became one of the most famous speeches in American history, The Gettysburg Address. Everett later wrote the president saying, “...if I could flatter myself that I came near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Imagine if PowerPoint had been around in 1863. Everett probably would have spoken for four hours. PowerPoint practically begs you to talk too much. When you start typing bullets, you can’t stop. Pretty soon you have 40 slides for a 20 minute presentation, which is about 35 too many. Shoot for one slide every two to five minutes of your presentation. 

You’ll find Aristotle’s method of communicating in groups of three to be quite compelling. Apparently, we humans have the greatest recall when things are lumped into three’s: The Three Stooges. The Holy Trinity; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This idea can be seen in much of Steve Job’s communications.

Let’s use the launch of the iPhone to illustrate: It’s pretty simple: problem, solution, impact. Identify the problem, offer the client your solution, and then show them the business and personal impacts.

The Problem. Steve starts out with some background on the state of the world as it exists, then dives into the problem. He says there’s a category of things called smart phones (or so they say), which typically combine a phone, some email capability, and the baby internet. They have a common problem of not being easy to use. A major problem is being stuck with a fixed keyboard UI. Steve highlights some of the more common smartphones from the era and notes the keyboard and control buttons are fixed in plastic, forcing you to use the same controls for every application.

The Solution. Steve the solution is to reinvent the phone. He starts with a revolutionary user interface. Steve points out how we solved the problem of UI over 20 years ago with the computer mouse. He teases the crowd by saying his solution is a stylus, then says what’s he’s actually going to just get rid of all the buttons and make the phone one giant screen. We don’t want to use a mouse and we don’t want a stylus. Steve kids further by saying we’ll use the best pointing device in the world; our fingers. Then he explains the new technology called mutli-touch and adds, “… and boy have we patented it!”

The Impact. Steve says the combination of the touch screen and the operating system are five years ahead of any other phone, allowing the user to multitask, or run multiple applications simultaneously. He says the iPhone lets you create applications and do networking that is desktop class right in the palm of your hand.

It’s also important to not dive too deep into the weeds. As biologists say, there’s a hierarchy to our brains. We crave the big picture first. If you see a tiger, you don’t care about how many teeth it has (details); you only want to know if it will kill you. Grab that tiger by the tail. Start off with the 50,000 foot view.

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