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Last week, our Full-Time MBA students attended a workshop led by Charles Andrew and Alexis Scobie of Idea Couture, a global strategic innovation and experience design firm. The workshop, which focused on storytelling techniques in business, was part of the core module Design Thinking and Innovative Problem Solving.

The storytelling workshop was led by Charles Andrew, who brought a wealth of expertise as Senior Client Partner at Idea Couture, and assisted by his colleague Alexis Scobie, Innovation Strategist and alumnae of Imperial College Business School, having graduated from the MSc in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management in 2015.

Students were introduced to the idea of storytelling being a business skill in the first part of the workshop. They were shown a movie of moving triangles filmed in 1949. Although there was no obvious narrative to the movie the class shared their different reactions. Some said they saw characters emerge from the movement of the triangles and others shared that they felt emotions of joy or sadness.

“Humans are wired for stories even when there isn’t one”, Charles said, “storytelling skills help us to think about what’s happening in the mind of the audience and to create an excited reaction”.

The workshop gave students a glance into the storytelling methods used at Idea Couture. Until recently the skill of storytelling has been overlooked. It was only this year that Forbes highlighted it as a tool that builds emotional engagement and enhances business performance.

“Storytelling is a really important skill that underlies an array of business skills including pitching, leadership and audience engagement, even though it isn’t often thought of as a business tool”, Charles said.

Charles told the audience that storytelling was behind Apple’s transition to the Cloud in 2011 – aka the “Year of the Cloud”. When Steve Jobs first pitched the iCloud service he was met with scepticism. It was the narrative that Jobs went on to build around the challenges and solutions to the transition that won over its sceptics.

Following the talk, the Full-Time MBA students split into teams for a group project. Using the principles of storytelling, students planned and pitched a fictional product to the panel of Charles, Alexis, and module leader and Assistant Professor of Design and Innovation, Dr Ileana Stigliani.

Students explored several storytelling methods that brought the unique selling points of the products to life in their pitches, including sudden events and life or death tropes. They introduced the audience to named protagonists and used humour to drive emotional engagement with the product.

The main objective of the workshop for Charles and Alexis was to show students how storytelling skills can help them achieve their aims in business and how the skills can be woven into many business situations.

Dr Ileana Stigliani emphasised the applicability of storytelling to business, “Storytelling skills give students the ability to deliver presentations that are engaging and compelling. The workshop equipped students with tools and communication skills that they can apply in different business situations”.

“I’ve never practised storytelling before and I found the workshop really useful’, Full-Time MBA student Suzy Kerton said, “I have an accountancy firm and it’s helped me to start to think about how to interact with clients”.

Thrilled to return for the workshop, Alexis Scobie described her job at Idea Couture as an extension of her MSc programme at the Business School.

“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now without my Imperial College Business School education”, she said, “for example, as an innovation strategist I use elements of design and creativity and bring them together using the skills I learnt during my time 

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