March 7, 2022

Art and Science of Storytelling with Anjali Sharma

Art and Science of Storytelling with Anjali Sharma

Storytelling has gained spotlight in many a business conversation recently and that is because stories are able to attract attention and motivate its listeners to take action. 

Storytelling is an acquired skill and to understand what it looks like when implemented, press that play button to hear Anjali Sharma from Narrative, a multinational storytelling agency. 

Filled with practical action ideas and also real life examples this episode will help you get ideas on storytelling and how you can 'go down to the trenches' to seek a good story. 

Do not miss the 5 things organisations should do to identify great stories - which is a great framework that Anjali shares in our conversation.

Besides being a founder of Narrative, Anjali is also an author and has shared her idea on strategic storytelling on several platforms. 

Connect with Anjali on Linkedin:
and do check out her website:

[00:00:00] Surbhi Dedhia: Hey Anjali, welcome to The Making of a Thought Leader podcast. It is absolutely my pleasure to have you on board. 

[00:00:07] Anjali Sharma: Thank you. And it's my pleasure to be here. 

[00:00:11] Surbhi Dedhia: Awesome. There's so much to talk about today and I can't wait to begin. I think I have a million questions for you, but before that, please introduce yourself to the listeners. 

[00:00:24] Anjali Sharma: Okay. So, my name you've already taken it's Anjali. Um, so I think, I'll probably introduce myself from two perspectives at a personal level. I'm a mother of a 14-year-old, um, and two dogs who may bark in between. Please bear with that. I live in Singapore. If you can see some palms behind me and, uh, I've been living here for this time around since 2010, so close to 12 years. Um, at a professional level, I run a story practice called narrative, the business of stories. Um, what do we do? It's actually very simple what we do.

[00:01:02] Anjali Sharma: Uh, we work with organizations and corporate professionals to help them find curate, and tell the transformation story. So what does that look like? Um, a big brand can say, this is our new campaign. How do we tell the story for that? Or a big brand could say, this is the new change initiative. We want everybody to come on board.

[00:01:19] Anjali Sharma: How would tell how do we tell the story for that? Um, so that's our day-to-day work. That's what keeps us on our toes. 

[00:01:26] Surbhi Dedhia: So amazing. You know, storytelling is, one of the oldest forms of education, that's, that's the way I would want to describe it. And this is so amazing that you are in a field, which is to, uh, not only educate, but also to connect, the dots. 

[00:01:44] Anjali Sharma: Absolutely I mean is the oldest form of education. And add one more E to the education. It's probably the oldest form of education, uh, which is also engaging. Um, usually education is sort of like, oh my God, I don't want to, I have to sit and examine and get a first-class degree.

[00:02:04] Anjali Sharma: Uh, but if you shift your messages into story and not only are you educated, but you're engaged as well. And I think that's probably the most classic benefit of storytelling. 

[00:02:15] Surbhi Dedhia: Amazing. Amazing. Tell me more about, uh, your business narrative and how did you come around doing it, did you always know that you want to run a business like this?

[00:02:25] Anjali Sharma: Okay. So sort of, we, I'm going to be absolutely honest, uh, in responding to this question, unlike many of the people I wasn't in my mom's stomach and always knew what I wanted to do. Uh, you know, I've, I've uncovered every phase, you know, okay, you do this, you like that part of this, then you do this, then you like that part of that.

[00:02:44] Anjali Sharma: But I think. That discovery and joy was perhaps not the only thing which got me into the work that I'm doing. Um, this was in the year 2010 after having worked in Australia for about six years. I have moved back to Singapore and this time I say this time, because I've lived in Singapore from 2000 to 2005 as well.

[00:03:05] Anjali Sharma: And then we worked with. Went and lived in Australia from 2005 to 2010. So this time when I came back to Singapore, I came with a two and a half year old child. Um, so you know, the dynamics change completely. You want to be more in control of your time. Um, it was the stage and the phase of my career at that time, where.

[00:03:27] Anjali Sharma: My personal life and my professional life, we're both coming at a point where personally, I wanted to be more in control of my time. Be able to manage the time between home and work in a sane balanced way. But at a, you know, at a professional level also I was questioning more than I normally would. I was, had turned 30.

[00:03:50] Anjali Sharma: I had a bit more confidence than I did in my twenties. So, you know, uh, I was questioning a lot more and getting frustrated with, uh, processes that made no sense to me took too long. Um, for example, I remember this one discussion I was in, um, when I came back to Singapore and I was working. With a leading agency in the world, it's a world-class agency.

[00:04:14] Anjali Sharma: And I was the business director there and we were discussing this new, campaign creative and somebody said, but the brand guardian would never allow us to do it that way. And I often heard this term come up, but the brand guardian will not allow us to do it that way. Not in my twenties. I would've just zipped and gone ya right brand guardian wouldn't allow us to do that. But, you know, I had sort of come to that place. I was, I just turned 30 and I was. But who is this brand guardian. I want to talk to this brand guardian. And the response that I got from the team was the brand guardian. You can't talk to a brand guardian brand. Guardian is a book that actually decides what's right for the brand to do, and what's not right.

[00:04:51] Anjali Sharma: And I was appalled and i was like really a book is going to dictate the world is moving so fast. And a book that was written five years ago is going to dictate what creative we can. And we can't do it may have made sense to have a very sort of, you know, good brand guardian that actually has a life, but it was like things were changing so fast.

[00:05:11] Anjali Sharma: So I was questioning many things like that. Um, but you know, you're in this large setup, you're one person who's getting frustrated because time suddenly was really important for me. It's five o'clock. I need to be rushed to get back home. So, so, you know, you see there's this culminating point of personal and professional where you are not feeling dissatisfaction.

[00:05:32] Anjali Sharma: Uh, but you're also becoming very particular about your time. And at that point, I was like, gosh, I need to do something to change this. Um, so, uh, that's how, um, I had to sort of. And I really didn't know what I was good at. So I had to sort of start asking my trusted clients, you know, what is it that you think I could do?

[00:05:51] Anjali Sharma: And many of them kept saying this thing called storytelling. And I was like, what is this storytelling? And.

[00:06:01] Anjali Sharma: So I think the clients were the catalyst in actually telling me, pointing me towards this thing called storytelling. And I was like, oh, that's a talent I have. But then to turn that talent into a skill was my work. Actually make that talent a profession. Um, And I think many people don't know what they have unless somebody else points pointed out to them.

[00:06:24] Anjali Sharma: Yeah. So that sound Narrative started in the year. Uh, 2012 is when we started. So this is. Decade over like 

[00:06:37] Surbhi Dedhia: congratulations. And I think, yeah, it is a big achievement to even, uh, firstly know what the product is and then, position it and, you know, sustain it for so long. So kudos to you and the team.

[00:06:49] Surbhi Dedhia: And you didn't mention anything about the team so far, so who's, uh, behind Narrative?. 

[00:06:55] Anjali Sharma: Oh, so we, we have this model of working, which we actually sort of called like an athlete model, simply because I'm obsessed with sports and I like to run myself. So a lot of the things I look through the lens of sports, and, uh, we have this athlete model where I front everything.

[00:07:13] Anjali Sharma: I can't possibly do everything that I do unless I have the backing. So we have, um, uh, five people support at the back, um, with who actually helped me do the final work. So, you know, we've got a, somebody who looks after the admin and accounting, somebody looks after the editing as somebody who looks after the, copywriting, somebody who looks after the weapon design, you know, so we've got a team like that who actually support.

[00:07:37] Anjali Sharma: The front part of it. So we run the business in that particular way. 

[00:07:41] Surbhi Dedhia: Okay. That's wonderful. I can't stress the value of having a team enough to, you know, because you've got, you can go far with. That much alone, but with the team, you can definitely go distance. 

[00:07:53] Anjali Sharma: I think it was also about competency for us, right?

[00:07:56] Anjali Sharma: I mean, I'm not a designer, but I want my work to be beautifully designed. I'm not a copywriter, but I want to write, uh, in a way for my clients, the narratives are built for them that it's, world-class professionally done. I, I can go and learn those skills, but does that make business sense to do that? And I think was the answer was no every single time.

[00:08:17] Anjali Sharma: Yeah. 

[00:08:18] Surbhi Dedhia: Through true, I think. Yeah. And another way of, uh, this is, you know, smart work, not hard, right? Like, you know, you don't want to stretch yourself too thin on skills that use not your forte, which is a critical thing. And I think that brings me to. We established before the story is, oldest form of education and you added beautifully that it is engaging in today's world where it's, the digital is so busy. Especially from company's perspective that, you know, they think the competitors are doing this and we need to mirror that they are on Tik Tok. We got to be there. They are on clubhouse and you got to be there. I think it all winds back to that conversation or the communication that they want to, uh, share with their audience and a community at large.

[00:09:04] Surbhi Dedhia: So how do you at Narrative identify those stories? 

[00:09:10] Anjali Sharma: Yeah. Okay. So, you know, the, I think one of the world views of individuals that one must keep in mind is that there are three types of people. People are really interested in, which is I, ME and myself. Self relevance is superglue of attention. So if I come with some, say, for example, you are my client and you want me to build a story.

[00:09:28] Anjali Sharma: And I start inserting stories of, uh, you know, Warren Buffett and Steve jobs and, and, you know, Elon Musk and stuff like that. You know, there are great examples and great role models, but in an organizational setting, we may really be entertained by those stories, but then we're not going to be able to drive people into an action through that.

[00:09:46] Anjali Sharma: So when I say people are only interested in I, me and myself, we really have to dawn an identity of an organizational journalist and go down deep at the coalface of the organization and talk to people where stories live. Stories don't in organizations live in boardrooms, unfortunately. They live in pantry cafeteria, factory line, um, or on my desk, you know, separated by a little panel and your desk.

[00:10:13] Anjali Sharma: And it's the conversations there where the real stories are. Our job is to elicit the right one. And curated in a manner and tell it in a manner that it lands. So finding stories requires immense curiosity and the desire and the fire and the passion for you to actually be willing to be an organizational journalist and go down to the trenches and get those stories out.

[00:10:38] Anjali Sharma: When you tell a leader, X, Y Z from your company did this, this, this, and this. And this happened as a result. People go, wow, really it's their people. But you know, the chasm is just so big between where the boardroom is and where the factory line is. So literally we become organizational journalists and we go actually carry out conversations and discussions and go down to where people are creating an environment where people are willing to share.

[00:11:07] Anjali Sharma: And. We elicit those stories out and then form the narratives that need to be told. 

[00:11:12] Surbhi Dedhia: Nice. So I'm just trying to understand here that you become the journalist for your client and you go down to pick out stories of what organizations are happening and what are people.

[00:11:27] Surbhi Dedhia: I'm trying to connect the dots here in terms of, okay, so people are talking about, you know, a campaign or say a product that is about to launch or those kinds of stories. Right. But isn't the organization already having a goal that, okay. We want to, launch this product into, into the market.

[00:11:46] Surbhi Dedhia: And that does, that is the top of the mind, uh, work or the task they have. So how do you now connect. You know what I mean? That's. 

[00:11:57] Anjali Sharma: Yeah, let me answer the question with a real life example. Okay. Let's, let's make it internal because a large part of our work is internal. So you're leading a team of three and a half thousand people. And now you run a semiconductor factory. Uh, you do test an assembly for the chips in Singapore. And now there's this wave of the trend to actually, um, make the factory a smart factory.

[00:12:22] Anjali Sharma: A smart factory is essentially a factory, which is highly automated. It's lights down, robots work in it because they don't need lights. Right. So now, not only it's the trend and the thing to do, it's also something you can see in future. If you don't do, then we are going to be in deep trouble tomorrow, just because the demand of the product is increasing with every passing a minute.

[00:12:46] Anjali Sharma: And if our output from this factory does not increase, we can't sustain the operations in our city. Now, our job. Is to convince this two and a half, 3000 people who already work in the factory to say, yay, I want this factory to become a smart factory and not to resist that change right now.

[00:13:06] Anjali Sharma: Anybody you go and talk to on the ground? They'll say, what are you talking? Why should I want to have a smart factory? Because my own job is. Right now in this case, um, my job along with my team then becomes is how is not big having a smart factory going to in future effect, these people, we sort of say, we don't have the answers, right?

[00:13:30] Anjali Sharma: We don't have the answers other than. Uh, the leader's telling us because they're going to lose their jobs over. That's a threatened message. Really. You know, nobody's interested in listening to the fact that if you don't do this, you're going to have your job. Um, we, we wanted to sort of find a message. We wanted to find a story that tells that gives people, hope, positivity, and will to want to move in the right direction.

[00:13:51] Anjali Sharma: We went on the ground, we started looking for stories. We started having conversations and we started finding stories, which actually made sense. Let me give you an example of a story. So here's a person I'm going to change names and all for confidentiality reasons, here's a person let's just call this person Sue Ting.

[00:14:06] Anjali Sharma: Okay. Su Ting has been working in this factory for now close to about eight years. When she first joined the factory, she moved from one end of the factory to the other end of the factory, close to about eight times. This is a long walk. Her job in the factory is to take the product, put it in the trolley, move from one place to the other place.

[00:14:22] Anjali Sharma: Okay. Now, as the time has gone by, because the product demand has increased, she moves many more number of times, maybe 32 times now, physically it is impossible to sustain that level of movement. They will come a point where she will not be able to do it anymore. So work increases. The path is the same, Sue Ting is the same. Now what is Sue Ting going to do? What the promise of the future we showed Sue Ting was the, the ability to be able to become the workforce of the future. Why don't you learn. How to be the supervisor of the robots and get them to do this movement, but you program it, you make sure that you know, that all the supervisory duties of managing this machine workforce of digital workforce or smart work is your responsibility. When we showed Sue ting that future, she said, gosh, I want to be the workforce of the future. You know, so I think that's what I mean, when I say you got to go down to the trenches and find what is the change people are really looking for. Very quickly in a couple of seconds. Uh, you know, in a minute, I'm going to give you a consumer example as well. So say for example, you are trying to sell. Uh, adult diapers, right? Everybody would tell mostly everybody would tell the story of absorbency, the odor and stuff like that. But when you really go down to the trenches and you find out what's going on, what you realize is there is one thing that is not in place that even the consumers are sometimes not able to articulate, which is because we want to make this really absorbent, the thickness of that, adult diaper increases, right as time goes by. And as that increases, it creates real sense of embarrassment for people because it becomes obvious for everyone that you've got an adult diaper on. Now that's an hidden emotion. That lot of people actually. Articulate it's unspoken, but it's felt, um, you know, so it's about really going down and finding what is good things work.

[00:16:30] Anjali Sharma: So am I making sense? 

[00:16:31] Surbhi Dedhia: Oh, absolutely. This is so insightful because a lot of times we are skimming the surface. 

[00:16:38] Anjali Sharma: I am glad you found that insightful. I think, you know, the corporate cultures are actually really designed for fast and fix so fast, fast, fast fix fix fix. And when you go with fast, fast, fast, and fix, fix fix, it is really, really hard for you to actually really say stop. Let's just try and understand the world view of the person that I'm trying to serve.

[00:16:58] Anjali Sharma: And what is it that this person really needs. Um, and no matter how. Pragmatic how business oriented, how analytical, how logical, rational and methodical, uh, the corporate cultures leadership team claims to be, um, you know, as Dr. Jill Bolte, Taylor says that, you know, although with. Of ourselves is thinking creatures who can feel biologically.

[00:17:23] Anjali Sharma: We are feeling creatures who can think so, you know, it's really, really important for us to actually be able to get that part for us to move into the right direction or else you are noise. You're like everybody else you're noise, noise, noise, noise, noise, worth ignoring. 

[00:17:36] Surbhi Dedhia: Absolutely. I am very excited about this part because now you have found the story. Yeah. You have found the story from in the trenches.

[00:17:44] Surbhi Dedhia: You, you know, this you've convinced who take that. Okay. You know, she wants to be the workforce of the future. What happens next? Uh, does that story become like something that you take to the management to people to kind of now build messaging around it? And so this is just one person amongst 3000. Uh, so, so 

[00:18:08] Anjali Sharma: what happened.

[00:18:09] Anjali Sharma: Yeah. So you've got to identify the tribes that exist within the larger tribe of the organization. Right? So switching is an example of a person who works at the factory line and has that job. Then there is a community of HR practitioners who. Uh, who in the past used to be, uh, the face of the organization, the ones who were welcoming new people, shortlisting them, or in doing orientation for them and walking them around the fields of the beautiful corporate campus.

[00:18:38] Anjali Sharma: But today, uh, they are CV sorters, right? Because there are the number of CDs that you receive is so much more, there are so many more platforms. Um, so, you know, Matthew who. Joined the organization with immense pride of being the face of the organization as an HR practitioner is now a CV sort resetting and sorting CVS and gives it to the department heads.

[00:18:59] Anjali Sharma: So that department heads can make the, uh, do the interviews. So, you know, what's the S the emotional or the desire, and the aspiration story there for Matthew is that, you know, what, why don't you give this hack work of sorting CV to a technology, and you go and do what keeps you at the front. So the point I'm making is that you look at the larger organization, you find the tribes, right?

[00:19:22] Anjali Sharma: You, the ops, the engineering, um, the, the various lot of tribes that exist within it. You find enough number of stories that actually cover most of the tribes that you're trying to talk to. Um, then after that, we start with a big, broad messaging with a lot, the biggest leader of all. So who's the president, who's the CEO.

[00:19:43] Anjali Sharma: The CEO gives a big, broad storytelling. To everybody, he or she, after they've done that, then the department heads then pick their specific tribe narrative. Look in my department has these three types of people from the group that I need to speak to, they go more in depth with their particular, 

[00:20:03] Anjali Sharma: Now what's fascinating about this work is that. It's not, if you're trying to create a change, it's not enough to just, I tell you, you feel it. And then we all go clap, clap, clap. We've made you feel our job is done. Absolutely. No. The job of a corporate story is to move people into action. The job of a movie fictional novel, all those sorts of things is not necessarily to move you into the action it's to entertain you.

[00:20:30] Anjali Sharma: And, uh, to may be on some occasions, change your mindset. But in this case, we are wanting a clear action movement in the right direction. Therefore, the last step in our storytelling is always what is the smallest possible action. We can get these people to take, to move them into the right direction.

[00:20:49] Anjali Sharma: We are very, very conscious of the fact that we don't want a big jump. We just want the smallest possible jump at the end of it. What that could look like is that, you know, here's the story of you becoming the workforce of the future. I'm feeling. Now you feel it there's a certain amount of energy in you because you're feeling it.

[00:21:08] Anjali Sharma: I want to actually tap that energy and move you into the right direction with that energy. I don't want that energy to become a WhatsApp chat, zoom chat, or a corridor conversation. So I'm going to give you physically give you the first step you can do. So in one case, we, what we did was there was a road show that was coming up, which was, um, the road show for all things, artificial intelligence people could learn.

[00:21:28] Anjali Sharma: Now the adoption for that, the sign up for that was low. So we did the storytelling and then when that desire to want to be the workforce of future was there, we sent people the link to sign up. Of course the signups go up, right? So that's the smallest possible step I can take to move you into the right direction.

[00:21:46] Anjali Sharma: Now, if the story is solid and we're really doing good work, that road show will show the next step, then it'll show the next step and then it'll show the next step. Um, so we literally. Physically see change as we tell the story. So it's not just about, oh, that was really nice. I love it. How he told us or how she told us. So inspirational. Inspiration literally means move things into action. So here we go. We move things into action. We vote ourselves accountable for that. 

[00:22:16] Surbhi Dedhia: Right. So when you work with these companies, do you work with us one-on-one with these organizational heads and department heads or go down to like more number of people or is it, uh, you know, like you group them identifying the tribes as you said?

[00:22:34] Anjali Sharma: Yeah. So, this is a good question and I say, it's a good question because there is no one answer for it, but I'll give you an example, right. It always, for me, starts with a conversation with the biggest boss, right. As to like, who is the president and who's the CEO and what's the change. Now I'll tell you, it's not for me to actually understand the CEO, the president's mindset.

[00:22:55] Anjali Sharma: It's for me to actually interrogate his thought process. Um, and, and the great leaders actually are very grateful for that. Right. For example, one of the, the sponsors of the program, I remember meeting and I asked him as to why, why do you think you need to make this change? And he says, well, if we don't.

[00:23:15] Anjali Sharma: Uh, then, uh, we're not going to have this factory in future, although he was correct. That message was not going to connect. Right. So it was, if you tell someone, if you don't do this, you're out, right. Like that's a very negative, then my thing would be, I'm going to go look for another job. Uh, you know, I'm going to try and actually find something else.

[00:23:35] Anjali Sharma: So that process actually gives me an ability to really interrogate the thought process of the leader. Really try and understand where he's coming from. And break some of his, uh, abstract speak, which is, you know, we want to lead with innovation and, and, and sort of bring in a lot of, uh, enhancement of practices, that sort of language we want to want to break that down.

[00:23:57] Anjali Sharma: So I will keep asking, elaborate, tell me more, give me an example of that. What does that mean? I want to see, so where that leader always gets stuck at is when I ask them. I said, tell me, when did you, so he's like, our people are not able to create new business models through this. So I'll be like, okay, give me an example of the last time you spoke to them.

[00:24:14] Anjali Sharma: And they were not able to create the new business models from this and he'll be stuck like, so they can't actually Storify these statements that they make, they make, they have broad understanding of what's going. Right. They have larger narrative sorted, but they don't have the stories that support it. So it starts there.

[00:24:30] Anjali Sharma: Then it comes a place where there are blanks. We go, okay, in this story, there are these fill in the blanks. Then we have to bring in the second in command the department heads together in collaboration with them having understood what we were seeing there. We actually work with the department heads and they all bring in their own department perspectives.

[00:24:49] Anjali Sharma: Right. So we can have a broader story, but how does that play out in my department? How does it play out in my department? so everybody has different, different, okay. Once I've got all of that sorted, then I put that aside as if I've done no work, then we're like, okay, our sneakers are on and we are going down to the trenches.

[00:25:05] Anjali Sharma: Right. Now if, and when we get opportunity, we have our masks on and everything on, and then we start having conversations with people with absolutely no. No sort of keeping in mind that those are my messages. I've put them aside. I'm just trying to find what's the new, those conversations are insightful.

[00:25:25] Anjali Sharma: I say insightful because majority of the time, the messaging we thought was not, it's not the messaging that is required. For example, after COVID for all the digital transformation, everybody was. I know, I have to learn how to digitally transform things. I don't need a story for that. I mean, there's no convincing required.

[00:25:45] Anjali Sharma: Please tell me how, how are we going to make it happen? The story took a completely before that we were like, please, please, please get digitally. Transform. After that there's no sorts of story changes. And you find that out. When you actually go down to the trenches, then you sit, you spread all the stories, spread all the messaging and you start making sense of that data that you've got.

[00:26:06] Anjali Sharma: Right? What is the maximum numbers coming? This that we spend that that's our solo process. We don't involve the clients in that. We come to a conclusion with that. We come to a take, a point of view on that. Then we present our point of view to the people and then. Once they've input, then we start sort of building and saying, okay, right.

[00:26:26] Anjali Sharma: Let's let's get the right story out now. It's, that's how the, 

[00:26:30] Surbhi Dedhia: well, that is a very detailed and you know, I think it's scientific to that extent where you sit with data and then you kind of piece it all together. And it's, I think I, if I have to sum it up it's like an art and a science because science, obviously, because it's data and art, because how you, weave through and connect all the pieces together because that is a skill and a very interesting way of stitching it all together to present it to the CEO. And from what you said is the leadership has this 30,000 feet, it is always so difficult to for them to see, uh, the ground reality, but at the same time for you to kind of bring them. And tell them that, look, this is what your narrative should be. 

[00:27:18] Surbhi Dedhia: Has there been like, um, interesting discussion around this? Like when you, when you pieced it all together and when you say, well, this is the messaging, these are the. Uh, the CEO was completely, I mean, I think should be a surprised, like, oh, is that true all the 

[00:27:36] Anjali Sharma: time that happened all the time.

[00:27:39] Anjali Sharma: So our value is in being able to be insightful. So there's two things, right there is intuition. and there is Insight. Intuition is when, what I'm saying falls completely in line with what they thought all I have done is so, you know, their hypothesis was this. And then I go find, and I say, what you thought was correct.

[00:27:57] Anjali Sharma: And here's how we tell it better. Rare for us to happen.. Insight is when the, as Dr. Gary Klein says insight is when the story takes an unexpected turn, unexpected shift, we didn't even think this was the thing. And that for us, majority of the time, it's an unexpected shift, right? So at one place, uh, in Japan, we started the story with, we want to make this site, the model for diversity equality and inclusion in Japan, right? We want to make the site that's the goal and that the messaging was around. If we don't have foreigners coming in, if we don't have younger people and we don't have women working in them, we're not going to have enough talent left in Japan to be able to sustain our business.

[00:28:39] Anjali Sharma: Once we finished the finding journalism part of it, the messaging completely changed. It all became about the quality of life. And then be like, oh my God. Yeah, completely changed. We were like, that may be true. It's not the narrative that will work here. Once the finding happened, it was all about. Um, what the narrative is completely built on the quality of life of the people who worked in that factory, you know.

[00:29:05] Anjali Sharma: So, that's our value where we become, we have to be insightful if we are just giving them intuition based work, then they already know that we're just confirming that for them. And we work very hard to be insightful versus just retain things within the circle of intuition. 

[00:29:21] Surbhi Dedhia: Sure. And this looks pretty long process so that you have to give an estimated time. Do you like, what are the it's just like goes for three months, seven months, like. 

[00:29:32] Anjali Sharma: Yeah, so we've got, um, so let's see, not all of our work is in the consultancy space, although that is a large part in our unique proposition, the consulting work that I'm explaining to you, uh, some of our work is also in the learning skills based work, where brands just come to us and they want to learn the skills of being able to tell a story.

[00:29:51] Anjali Sharma: Um, so that's obviously based on a very learning and development sort of sector. So if we go back to the consulting, work, the range of the work we've, we've done that work for some clients in a month. Um, and, uh, there are some projects that we've been on since 2019 till now.

[00:30:08] Anjali Sharma: We're still, it's not like we've still doing one project. It's just that we see so much success in one. Then we go into the other side, 

[00:30:16] Surbhi Dedhia: there's this connecting pieces that come about. Yeah. I can totally relate to that. You know, uh, being closely involved in, uh, training and development for some part of my work life, I realized that, uh, it's never a full stop. It's a comma or an and right?

[00:30:33] Surbhi Dedhia: Like you just kind of build on, yeah? 

[00:30:36] Anjali Sharma: Yeah. We've, we've had organizations win world-class awards, we've had organizations increase their, the ratio of men to women.

[00:30:44] Anjali Sharma: We've had organizations where we've had so many number of people who've now adopted to be, uh, you know, data analysts and data scientists from different. So it's, it's, we we've shown tangible results to these organizations for them to want to keep calling us back for different, different things that are linked.

[00:30:59] Surbhi Dedhia: Right. True. So let, let us now connect all this, like, so we've built like this whole understanding about how going to the trenches and getting the real stories from real people make so much of a difference.

[00:31:12] Surbhi Dedhia: When it comes to the external side of things, right? Like when, uh, the organization wants to say that, look, we are number one in this industry, in the sector. And this is how, so this is obviously not going, um, doesn't, doesn't cut, cut the noise, but definitely that identifying these stories will help them build their thought leadership.

[00:31:38] Surbhi Dedhia: Yeah. Uh, how have you seen in your experience this play out externally the whole process of story development in the shift in narrative, how does that play out externally to build that thought leadership? 

[00:31:52] Anjali Sharma: Yeah, so, in external part, of course, you know we sort of run with the practice that people are sort of really influenced by people like them.

[00:32:04] Anjali Sharma: Right. So if you want to tell a story to customers, you have to find a customer story. You don't, they don't, uh, pardon my language, but they don't give a damn about when, where you formed and what you did and all that sort of stuff. Right. It's. What can you do for them? So if in a story there is only one thing that I would, I could pick and say that, you know, if the story didn't have this, then the story is not right.

[00:32:27] Anjali Sharma: It would be resonance. Right? Resonance. I mean, the story people have to listen to the circle. That's my story. Right? That that's exactly my problem. Right. So once we identify that resonance is the key to any success of any story, then we have to go, okay, who's the best. Character or the best individual to bring that resonance.

[00:32:47] Anjali Sharma: It's always people like them, right? So it's a customer. So customer consumer, so consumer, um, uh, kid to a kid. So those, you know, if you, if you watch films and all, you tend to start imagining yourselves like characters in the film, right. That is exactly the principle follow. So we try to find characters.

[00:33:08] Anjali Sharma: Similar. And then we find real things that have happened with them on the ground. Um, we are not interested in, we're interested in moments, you know, little moments, little things that are happening on the ground that actually can unfold, to the person who's listening to you or that, that, that happens to me.

[00:33:29] Anjali Sharma: And that's how you can help me. Um, so just like I gave you the diaper example and you tell the story of another person who actually. I mean, everything is there. Technically, whatever I need from this product is there. But you know, when I get up after I'm, so I'm also trying to activate your visualization.

[00:33:47] Anjali Sharma: There are principles of storytelling note, I finished dinner and then I was very uncomfortable to get up because. I wanted everybody to get up and go first. So I sat there on everybody. So we want to create that resonance for people, right. In those little moments. And we equip people with an ability to be able to have these conversations.

[00:34:09] Anjali Sharma: Put it on YouTube or put it on Instagram or put it on, you know, tik-tok, it's not that, what we're trying to say is that when you have conversations with people, we want to equip you with stories like that. Of course you can format stories for various social media platforms have the same messaging as well, but it has to be platform right. Uh, but my job usually is equipping people to be able to have the right kind of storytelling conversations, in a manner that it does not even look like it's a storytelling attempt. It just looks like effective way of being able to communicate. Now, what is communication is transfer of emotions, right?

[00:34:46] Anjali Sharma: So I talked to you in a way I've equipped you. And I talk to you in a way where people go that that's my problem. That is exactly my problem. Nobody ever saw it from that lens. Um, so we get you ready with the. Real such stuff like that. And you are then also able to tell it. So there's two things. First.

[00:35:09] Anjali Sharma: You've got to find the story right then to have the ability to tell it, well, you know, you, you, we know a story. Um, you know, Nokia made this ad many years ago when Nokia still existed, where they show this. And I think that's such a good ad with a show that this couple, uh, two couples were friends, they meet up for lunch and one of the couples has just come back from a safari.

[00:35:31] Anjali Sharma: And, um, and that one, couple, the couple who hadn't gone to the safari, us to tell us about safari and this couple obviously has gone to the safari has a lot of experiences and stuff. Uh, it was, it was great. Um, tell us more, like, I mean, did you see animal animals? Um, and they just weren't able to say it, right.

[00:35:51] Anjali Sharma: Even though they have so much to tell, it's not everyone's ability to be able to storyteller and then they bring out Nokia. You don't have to say anything, just show the photo. But in our case, people often find themselves in these awkward situations, right. Where they are not able to say, even though they know the story, so we equip them in the right manner to be able to tell. Vaccination, has been a huge work for us here in Singapore.

[00:36:16] Anjali Sharma: So, you know, encouraging dormitory workers, working with the government and encouraging dormitory workers to get vaccinated and getting dormitory workers to, have safe distancing, um, to remove the vaccine hesitancy from people and wanting to boosters. It's not like they don't know how to tell they know the story, but they don't know how to tell it.

[00:36:35] Anjali Sharma: Fast. So that's another skill, that's a skill, right? So, so we, uh, work with, uh, with the people because we realize it's not the lack of will to want to tell it's the lack of skill that they have. We have to fix. We have to identify that as well. Yeah. 

[00:36:50] Surbhi Dedhia: It's also the, uh, you know, if I have to just flip the point, you said that it is not that the workforce didn't do that.

[00:36:56] Surbhi Dedhia: They have to get digitally advanced. It was just, they didn't know how or. Uh, create that movement of energy spike, which can then be tapped into an action in the right direction. So this is, this is the other side of the coin where you're saying that look then the government knows that everybody needs to get vaccinated and the booster, and they know they can just simply say it, but the way of telling it can get, bring the desired action.

[00:37:26] Surbhi Dedhia: In my work in thought leadership, often I end up working with business owners and entrepreneurs who, who have the skill to innovate and bring products to the market, they know that they need to go out there speaking, but they don't have motivation or, you know, they're like, okay, one day I'll do it. 

[00:37:46] Anjali Sharma: Absolutely, absolutely. You know, I, and I think it often trumps from the sense of. If I, we call that loss aversion in the world of storytelling. So for as long as we can tell people the benefits of doing something, they go, yeah. Yeah. I'll think about it and I'm sure I'll want to do it. And then we tell them what's the loss.

[00:38:06] Anjali Sharma: For example, if I told you so we here's a hundred dollars. If you do this, I'll give you a hundred dollars. You'll say, sure Anjali, I'll think about it. Surbhi dear, if you don't do this, you're going to lose a hundred dollars. You'll say, I'll do it right now. You know, I don't want to lose it. Uh, you know, so, um, the loss aversion part is an important component or an important sort of human behavioral insight in terms of action.

[00:38:28] Surbhi Dedhia: Right. So, so true. Tell us, top five things that people should do to identify those stories within an organization. And this is really for decision makers who probably have like a small team set up or even large like multi geography team. How can they go about looking for stories? 

[00:38:48] Anjali Sharma: Okay, it'll start with them understanding that what you think is a story is not a story okay.  

[00:39:03] Anjali Sharma: As Michael Lewis says that, you know, a story. The simplest form is about a person and something happens to that person. So when we get up and we say, our brand is built on the DNA of innovation and at the heart of our function is collaboration. We want to come up with new business models to break the path of our industry.

[00:39:25] Anjali Sharma: That's not a story that has no character renewed and nothing is happening to a character. So if you're really looking for a story, I think that's where you need to kind of begin with firstly understanding what is a story and what is not a story in its simplest form. One more time, I'll say a stories about a person and something happens to that person.

[00:39:43] Anjali Sharma: Okay. The second thing would be, accept that rather than becoming a storyteller, you have to first to be a really good story, listener story finder. You can't become a good teller unless you are a good finder of a story, a good listener of a story. So, um, I think telling is the latter part. It's, that's why we say the journalism work is so important for us because you know, we will completely fail at telling if we didn't go and find. So that finding is really, really important, then it becomes, okay. So I now know what is the story? I know I have to find a story now in finding story, you have to be. Okay. In the past, I used to say that you should have really good ability to be able to ask good questions.

[00:40:30] Anjali Sharma: And I will add to that now, but now my, my definition of 0.3 is probably changed. So not only you ask the question, which naturally elicits a story, the second thing I would say is that you have to remove the obsession. From rapid responses to your questions because great insights are in verbal process and pause.

[00:40:52] Anjali Sharma: So let me explain that a little bit. So when we go and we actually start finding a story, so we'll say to people, oh, Uh, you know, share with me. When was the last time you walked into the office and you felt like, oh gosh, being an engineer in a, uh, in a male dominated environment is really difficult. Or gosh, you know, this, uh, the, the, the amount of work that my boss gives me an expects me to turn around in this little time is so hard.

[00:41:23] Anjali Sharma: Talk to me. When did you feel frustrated about that? Right. So I'm trying to draw you to a certain moment. Okay. So that's the ability to be able to ask the right question. Okay. Now, once you've got, got that question, you have to really detach yourself from the need for a rapid response. Some people will give you rapid responses.

[00:41:43] Anjali Sharma: Oh, it was. What you have to recognize is if you really want to get to the insight with the story, rapid responses are shallow and often given by people who are just confident, but not deep thinkers. Um, so what we want is we want verbal processing. What we want to encourage is we want to say to people now, if it goes, if you give me an answer, like make that normalize, that demystify, that issue with, I have to give a good articulate, perfect answer.

[00:42:09] Anjali Sharma: Our best stories come out. When people do things like this, does it kind of to think of anything. I dunno, you know, Hmm, let me think, you know, and actually, you know, that's verbal processing . We get really great stories when we normalize verbal processing in the process of finding, okay, pause this when people actually go.

[00:42:35] Anjali Sharma: They don't say it's very good. You're pausing, pause. Pause is a positive sign. So then they feel encouraged to pause enough and to reflect, right. They don't feel like I'm asked, expecting rapid, rapid responses from them. So once you've done that, um, you'll find the story. You find the right sort of elements.

[00:42:51] Anjali Sharma: Now the other thing. You have to really diversify the kind of people you ask, find the story from you have to get different people to talk about the similar issue.

[00:43:03] Anjali Sharma: You will see how perspectives differ. Let me give you an example very quickly. So an example would be, so there's this story about. Including women, even if you have one woman inviting her for team dinners and stuff, otherwise she feels excluded. That's the side of the woman, woman is saying, I feel excluded, you know, two days ago they went out for a team dinner and nobody asked me, and I didn't feel like a part of the team.

[00:43:25] Anjali Sharma: Then you go and ask the male members of the team. So that in this particular instance, we were doing gender equality work, the male members of the team say there is so much focus on harassment and this and that in this company. I feel like if I go and ask her, she will say to me that, are you trying to, you know, harass me by asking the only woman to come out.

[00:43:46] Anjali Sharma: Maybe tomorrow I'll be standing in the HR office because I asked the only woman to come out for dinner with us. So we're talking about a very conservatively Asian environment. You start to get where exactly is the problem. When you know, these stories start to surface. So diversify don't just listen. So if you wanting about operations or engineering operation stories, we will talk to an experienced person.

[00:44:07] Anjali Sharma: We'll talk to a young person who talked to a male member, a doctor, a female, talk to a foreigner, we'll talk to a local. So we get everybody's in the mood. Say, what is, what is sort of intersecting? What is coming out that is worth talking about? Right? So once you know what is a story? You agree that you have to find the story.

[00:44:29] Anjali Sharma: You allow ask the right question, verbal process and pause in the process of finding the story you diversify the group to be able to find, get to the right story. Then the final thing you have to do is to be able to tell the story. Well, that is a skill. The ability to tell the story well, is.

[00:44:49] Anjali Sharma: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. These are the things I need. Now I'm going to sort of see how I'm going to put that so that I would say the spontaneity of any story is an illusion. Usually there is a real method behind it. Yeah, 

[00:45:02] Surbhi Dedhia: definitely. I mean, I, I would, as I said, it's an art and a science. So you explained the art part so beautifully with this five steps. The fifth step of course, is a science. Obviously you don't, uh, you know, kind of wing it. 

[00:45:18] Anjali Sharma: No, no, not at all. And also, you know, finally I would say in the process, remember that we, the narrative experts, the storytelling sort of practitioners. We, if you look at the final product as a rose, we can give you a pedal.

[00:45:31] Anjali Sharma: We can give you a stem. We can give you the, the color and everything, but the fragrance and the rose comes from you. We can't give you that. Okay. So that's the part that actually, uh, is the demonstration. Where's the will to want to tell. And if there is the will, then the skill we can give, it's not a problem.

[00:45:51] Surbhi Dedhia: Yeah, sure. 

[00:45:52] Anjali Sharma: I think for organizations, the realization should be. If you're really wanting to make a change happen then without the stories, you will probably only make a transactional change happen, not a transformational change happen. Uh, it's the stories that make the change transformational or else it just remains transactional

[00:46:13] Surbhi Dedhia: Super. On that note, this is, this is been so insightful. I can't begin to even thank you because there was just so many parts in this conversation, which kind of had an aha. Aha. My mind just went going. So thank you so much for so generously sharing all that, you know, and have. 

[00:46:35] Anjali Sharma: Not at all Surbhi, it's my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. 

[00:46:39] Surbhi Dedhia: You're welcome.