Author, Louisa Devadason.
Robotics. Cybernetics. Artificial intelligence. These are the common things that pop out from our mind when it comes to automation. You, me and almost everyone else, who wouldn’t want technology to assist us to be fast and seamless? And let’s be honest, in a world that is becoming increasingly automated, it is easy to forget the human side of the business in favour of efficiency and convenience.
However, a few of the best companies in the world thrive through the stories that they share with us and you and I know, storytelling is an art we all grew up with – one that we engage with and enjoy in some shape or form.
For you with businesses, these stories are your identity – your purpose for existence and how you ascribe meaning to what you do. Good business storytellers draw us in the way you convey the why and the how of what you do. This is, of course, no simple feat as entrepreneurial storytelling is both an art – and precise science.
So, how can your brand and business tell your story in a robust and effective way? To gain further insights into how it’s done, I spoke to three leaders of Malaysian tech-based firms who are part of the Global Acceleration and Innovation Network (GAIN) programme developed by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).
Chia Yong Wei, Microlink Solutions. After a mere two years becoming part of the Omesti Group, Chia was made Group Chief Executive Officer of Microlink, a subsidiary of Omesti, in April 2016. Additionally, he is also Group Chief Technology Officer of Omesti Group and Chief Operating Officer of Omesti Innovation Lab – a division that develops technology and applications.
As the former Head of Innovation, Commercial & Technology (ICT) and Regional Head of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at AirAsia, Chia gained a lot of wisdom from another great storyteller that we are familiar with, AirAsia’s founder and Group CEO – Tony Fernandes.
“I came from a structured, presentation sort of background from my 11 years at Accenture. With Tony, you realise you are working with a sharp, entrepreneur with strong business acumen so you don’t want to beat around the bush. I learnt quickly to deliver my message succinctly and potently – in three minutes. It’s not an elevator pitch but it needs to be short and strong. Another thing I learnt from him was how to get the attention of others. Tony often starts conversations strong with an idea or a question that draws people in and he is very connected to his own story of where he came from and that’s always been remarkable to me.”
A charismatic and energetic person himself, Chia added that these are qualities of great value to him and one that he continues to empower and cultivate in himself. “There are many leaders out there, (and) I for one want to be charismatic. Not just to grab attention but to convey my message as effectively as possible. It’s important because that’s how we can engage others in the story we are telling.”
With Microlink focused on helping its clients understand Big Data and Industry 4.0, Chia shared that as a tech firm in a very technologically advanced era, human interaction skills like storytelling are more important than ever.
“It is important to be able to provide context, or contrast so that others can grasp these concepts in a meaningful way. Storytelling brings the humanness to all this – through analogies and painting a picture. Be factual, be concise and be careful that your stories are always truthful.”
Datuk Azrin bin Mohammad Noor, Sedania Innovator. The Founder and Managing Director of Sedania Innovator Bhd, a technology empowerment company, Azrin is no stranger to storytelling; having written two books and published four. The first book became an MPH number 1 bestseller, ‘Non-Conforming.’
He shared some of what he learnt through his writing process saying: “An entrepreneur in their rawest state is a salesman. If you are not a salesman, you are not an entrepreneur; you are just making products. Mastering storytelling, fine-tuning it as an art – is at the heart of great entrepreneurship. I break my formula into two parts: the content and the audience. Failing to understand both means you cannot reach out. With ‘NonConforming,’ I knew I wanted to reach out to the youth so I knew my audience; I now have to shape my content in a way that resonates with this group.”
Azrin who was awarded CEO Of The Year at the Malaysian Top Achiever Awards 2017 has a great heart for reaching Malaysian youth and offering new ideas to get them thinking differently, and innovatively to thrive in these times. It is a value that underpins both his and Sedania’s goals as they reach out and empower.
“First of all, be aware of the importance of being a thinker, of being empathic, intuitive and actively cultivate this in yourself. If you are yet to be there, you need to find someone who is and bring them on board and learn from them. Every team benefits from a member who has strong storytelling abilities and a strong mind but, we have to be open and welcome them on board.”
Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley. Founder, CEO of Mindvalley – education technology company – and author of ‘The Code of the Extraordinary Mind,’ Lakhiani stresses the importance of telling your start-up story in an honest way that inspires and draws people in and his greatest advice? People need to know your ‘why’.
“If you are heading a start-up, people do not care what you do. They care why you do it. Simon Sinek in his famous TEDtalk, ‘Start With Why’ essentially said that people ultimately care about the why of a company or a person rather than what their product is. People simply connect more with the why than they do the what but, here is the thing: start-up founders I know who are building great companies – they are not just doing it to sell out. They are driven to solve a problem or address a gap in society. It’s essential to talk about their why – the core of what is driving them.”
Lakhiani said he was empowered to start Mindvalley to share the benefits and personal growth he gained from meditation, goal-setting and other tools his father shared with him from a young age and that is his ‘why’ that he never loses sight of. He added that start-ups must transcend storytelling and share their truth, their passion and their drive in order to truly reach people and thrive.
“I wanted to get the things that I was learning out there. To be shared with others. When I explain Mindvalley, I talk about what inspired me to do it – the why.”
Louisa Devadason is an Editorial Associates at Leaderonomics. Follow her on LinkedIn.