It’s already a couple of years ago that I was taking my kids to the „Deutsches Museum“ in Munich, Germany. Of course, the attraction for little girls is less the impressive planes or ships, let alone any technical innovations of the past or present. The burner: The interactive technology experience playground down in the basement. After hours of deafening children’s screeching and soaking wet from these lovely water games, I announced: “Now it’s time for some REAL culture!” taking them up to a special exhibition about life in the 1950’s.
Old cars, vespas, vacuum cleaners and washing machines, strange dresses and shoes and sun glasses … all nice, my girls giggling, me becoming Mr. Nostalgia. BUT the following scene from that day is what made this exhibition so rememberable for me: A roughly 12-year-old boy standing on front of this ancient TV screen, massive with a greenish screen and classic wooden shells, when I overheard the following dialogue:
Boy: “Wow, they surfed the Internet with these things?”
Mother: “That’s a TV, back then, there was no Internet.”
Boy: “What do you mean: There was no Internet???”
Interesting. A generation that was born when the Internet was already mainstream standard. A generation that can’t remember having to walk to distant telephone boxes in the freezing cold to speak to your girlfriend, back then when there was no Skype, no What’s App, no Facebook or phone flats. Only 20 years ago. A generation that was born just before the 2001 .com bubble crash, around the time when four fare-sighted guys /Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger) from the U.S. hammered their 95 commandments to a digital wall named www.cluetrain.com.
What this has to do with storytelling? Everything. Let me mark out just a couple of Cluetrain theses which I believe significantly direct business humans working in and for corporations and especially in marketing and communication departments in the right cardinal point, directly to the power and inevitability of story in the social web age:
“Markets are conversations.” (Thesis 1)
The boiled-down essence of The Cluetrain. Meaning: “Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.” (Thesis 2) Meaning: Target groups, clients, users, readers, viewers are humans. Not some alien, abstract mass of lemmings waiting for a message to follow. And these markets (or humans) are constantly engaged in conversations, with each other, with other corporations – and conversations are meta level of stories, or vice versa: stories are the molecules of conversations.
“People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.” (Thesis 5)
If that is so – and it is –, then corporations can’t talk, can’t tell stories, can comment, can’t post, chat, respond or share information, only their employees can. And no products, no solutions, no services, no companies can be heroes, only people can – and in the sharing web that finally really helps Kant’s Aufklärung blossom, corporate fake will be unmasked in the tweet of an eye. And “as a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.” (Thesis 10)
“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.” (Thesis 75)
There’s nothing to add here, they wrote this in 1999, and look at many companies, especially in the B2B area: They’re still lagging behind on the smartness front like ever before.
Last but not least, the bulls-eye thesis for the importance of storytelling in the technically interconnected world:
“If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.” (Thesis 75)
And this “something interesting” is an interesting, relevant, credible, authentic, true story.
And what IS a real, true story? And what ISN’T?
The story goes on … here … soon.