Trending Now: Storytelling and Business

Yoshinori Isozaki’s path to shared value was a difficult one. As CEO of Kirin, his goal was to shape the company of the future—one that contributes to society in an impactful way. But among the assets in Kirin’s large food and beverage business are two of Japan’s most popular beers: Kirin Lager and Ichiban Shibori. How does a company that makes alcoholic beverages also address the social needs it might create, like drunk driving accidents? And further up the supply chain, how can the company make sure its beer factories don’t adversely affect the environment?

Then, Isozaki met FSG co-founder Professor Michael E. Porter, who explained the concept of shared value—a management approach that addresses social problems with business goals. Inspired, Isozaki started a shared value division before this idea had even permeated the Japanese business landscape. In 2009, the company rolled out the world’s first completely alcohol-free beer, and now Japan has reported a decrease in drunk driving deaths. Kirin is also helping to restore agricultural and fishery industries, fostering the positive co-existence of beer factories and healthy local communities. Today, Isozaki’s Kirin Group is embarking on a long-term business plan towards 2021, setting shared value at its center.

Isozaki will share the rest of his story with other global leaders at the Shared Value Leadership Summit: Investing in Prosperity, May 13-14 in New York (For more stories, see the Leading Shared Value series). What’s new this year, besides the location, notable speaker roster, and two-day agenda, is the emphasis on storytelling. 

New research is surfacing this old-fashioned art as a must-have business skill. Influencer Shane Snow of Contently, says that storytelling will be the “#1 Business Skill Of The Next 5 Years.” Harrison Monarth, writing for Harvard Business Review, calls storytelling a strategic business tool:

…a story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.

As a firm, FSG recently completed storytelling training with Andy Goodman of the Goodman Center. This illuminating session reshaped the way I approach my communications work.

At the Shared Value Initiative, we convene a global community of business leaders and problem solvers who see exciting market opportunities at the intersection of business goals and societal challenges. I ask myself and the field: What are the stories that will compel more companies and organizations to apply shared value thinking to solve social problems? It’s not stats on a balance sheet or an expanded roster of company names. It’s the stories of impact—like Isozaki’s—when a protagonist has a goal, encounters a barrier, and overcomes the barrier to find deeper meaning—that will truly inspire.

We are seeking Shared Value Storytellers. If you are advancing shared value through a new initiative, innovative research, or a unique partnership, we want to feature you at the Shared Value Leadership Summit; and the ticket is on us. You can learn more and apply by March 31st. We invite you to register for the Summit and look forward to surfacing applicant stories on sharedvalue.org.

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