The Return on Investment of Innovation Storytelling

Innovation Storytelling drives organizational alignment, collaboration, and sales by sharing successes and failures, with leaders reporting it as crucial to their personal and organizational success.

Alicia Surrao

Alicia Surrao

March 25, 2024

Almost 95% of innovation leaders at large enterprises say that innovation storytelling is one of the most important things they do in their organization that contributes to personal success. That's a strong consensus. When leaders storytell accomplishments and failures of their teams, their professional growth follows. Growth occurs not just because the perception of innovation matters. It’s because innovation storytelling also yields real value for organizations. 

In this second article of our three-part series on insights gleaned from innovation storytelling practices among innovation leaders, we’ll describe some of the key performance indicators of successful innovation storytelling to help you better track your organization’s return on investment. Read on to learn how innovation storytelling can:

  • Improve organizational alignment with shared values and goals
  • Increase productivity and engages innovators through improved collaboration
  • Boost sales and generate new leads for organizations

Nine return on investment impacts from innovation storytelling 

After speaking with innovation leaders across a range of industries, the Narratize team found that organizations saw innovation delivered ROI in several key ways. We found that innovation storytelling can:

  1. Improve strategic alignment and innovation culture across the organization
  2. Enhance internal collaboration 
  3. Increase customers and sales leads
  4. Grow the quantity of value-added innovation projects
  5. Develop external business partnerships and collaborations
  6. Improve morale/culture
  7. Bolster brand image
  8. Fine-tune operations
  9. Support the recruitment of talented innovators 

Of these, the most commonly-cited benefits of innovation storytelling were improving organizational alignment, enhancing cross-departmental collaboration, and increasing sales and leads. 

Improving strategic alignment and innovation culture within an organization

Among the 99 innovation leaders we spoke with, 82 ranked strategic alignment as the number one return on investment offered by innovation storytelling. Specifically, innovation leaders highlighted that innovation storytelling was a valuable activity for achieving a shared understanding of an organization's goals, priorities, beliefs, and values. 

Michael Todasco, the Senior Director of Innovation at PayPal, highlighted how innovation storytelling works to communicate PayPal’s broader mission and purpose and achieve alignment at the organization from top to bottom. He emphasizes that innovation storytelling–and specifically strategic innovation narratives–helps improve strategic alignment across an organization by establishing a set of shared values that helps teams understand the “why” of their work:

“You can't underestimate the power of story in an organization. Any time our CEO speaks about PayPal’s mission, he’s telling a story that resonates with each and every employee within the company. It gives us purpose for what we're doing. There is a higher purpose in everything that we do as a company, and that needs to filter down to the stories for the organizations. And every leader on every team needs to have a story about why that team is there.” 

“You can't underestimate the power of story in an organization. Any time our CEO speaks about [our] mission, he’s telling a story that resonates with each and every employee within the company. It gives us purpose for what we're doing.”

The true return on investment for establishing a shared organizational vision is how it affects organization culture. Business leaders note that alignment offers significant returns, including improved collaboration and employee morale

Enhancing collaboration across departments within organizations

Collaboration is an important part of innovation success. When we talked to Joe Scahall, director of technology and innovation at Henkel, he noted how difficult collaboration within an organization can be:

“The problem is sometimes we get siloed and functions have totally different languages,” says Schall. “What will motivate a chemist to work on a really promising project will probably mean nothing to somebody in a different part of the building.”  

And yet, it’s exactly at these intersections that organizations derive innovation value. Innovation storytelling engages innovators across organizations, improving overall productivity, boosting interdisciplinary thinking, and increasing the sharing of ideas, including failures. Sharing stories of failure, in particular, can help prevent avoidable failures in the future, though only a third of innovators share these types of stories.

Encouraging innovators to share ideas and work together can also boost their confidence, creativity, and productivity, moving more ideas through a business and reducing time spent moving a concept from ideation to execution. 

Ultimately, boosting collaboration saves time and money by increasing overall productivity. By our estimates, a 30% gain in productivity can save nearly $10,000 annually per person.

Generating customers and sales leads

As with any business objective, converting an idea into something that can be sold or generate consumer interest is paramount. Innovation storytelling helps organizations increase the number of customer and sales leads for their business by creating buy-in, says Dan Lord, director of clinical programs at Crossover Health. 

“In order to get buy-in, you have to present a story,” says Lord. “People have to really engage with that story. People don't react to just numbers on a page. We can show you data, cost data, things like that. But the only way that comes to life is if we can tell the story around it… And when you have that type of a message and that type of a story, people absolutely jump on board.”

But why are people so eager to jump on board? Perception. Customers want to purchase from organizations they perceive as innovative or innovating. Sharing stories of innovation actually changes our ability to be receptive to change - to imagine a world wrought by a bold new idea. 

Get innovation storytelling support from the experts 

Innovation storytelling offers powerful returns on investment for organizations by amplifying the presence of innovation. Watch for Part 3 of this series to learn more about how to effectively engage in innovation storytelling at your organization.

Innovation storytelling is at the heart of Narratize. Read more about how this peer-reviewed research informs our approach to generative AI.

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