Storytelling is hot in the business world. Apple, Nike, Sony, BMW and Starbucks get it's importance. Proctor & Gamble and American Express are pretty much getting it. And General Electric and the vast swath of companies across America are just beginning to understand how to create products and services that tell emotional stories that engage customers and make them loyal fans.
Here is an unorthodox idea--listen to the Navajo, the Hopi and the Zuni. At a time when Corporate America wants to learn about the narrative, they are finding few classes on the subject in conventional business schools or exec ed programs. People with old oral traditions can teach managers, marketers and designers all about story-telling. The Navajo, Hopi and Zuni create meaningful products that customers collect, not just buy. They produce story-teller bracelets inscribed with powerful personal and social narrative journeys. Each pot and blanket comes with a real story. The Navajo especially retain a sense of what’s authentic, what’s scrappy and real in a world aglitter with bling, irony, plastic and excess. Metacool asks whether the Navajo deliberately weave flaws into their blankets. I don't know. Weavers do put in a single straight line to the edge to allow their own spirit to leave the rug once they finish it.
Yeah, yeah, sounds like too much time in the high desert sun in August. Maybe so. But today consumers do crave what is genuine. Scrappy and rough are becoming a new aesthetic. And Yves Behar just might consider skipping Milan next year and go to Inter-Tribal Ceremonial in Gallup. And Jeff Immelt and A.G. Lafely might want to consider an Outward-Bound week for top managers on a reservation. You can find “consultants” in the oddest of places who can show you the power of the narrative. The stories they tell, and how they tell them, can inform the business you’re in.

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