How can the art of storytelling help you navigate transformative change? To help you find your way, consider the narrative practices used to support organizational transformation at Alessi, an Italian houseware and kitchen utensil company — with a master storyteller for a CEO.
Stories are powerful tools for helping people to reflect and learn. Hence the value of storytelling to that they never ended up watching! “Storytelling can be used to implement successful company transformations – to make sure that everybody is on board and excited about change,” says HEC Paris Professor Giada Di Stefano. She and co-author Elena Dapiaz published a 2018 research paper on the use of storytelling over 1979 to 2010 at Italian houseware company Alessi.
Master storytelling at Alessi
There is no better example of a company that has used storytelling to successfully navigate its strategic transformation than the case of Italian houseware and kitchen utensil company, Alessi. From 1979 to 2010, CEO Alberto Alessi mastered the art of storytelling to lead his firm through a successful repositioning. The company went from being a manufacturer of steel serving tools for bars and restaurants to a world renowned industrial design gamechanger. Over that time, Alessi produced iconic items so special that they have been featured in museums as objects of art.
This evolution was documented in over 30 internally produced books – corporate biographies authored by CEO Alberto Alessi himself and his collaborators from within Alessi. The books were shared with all of Alessi’s stakeholders, including employees, customers, retailers, and visitors to Alessi’s exhibitions. They influenced both outsider and insider perceptions of the company’s trajectory. According to Professor Giada, Alessi’s books provide an exceptional example of what happens when an organisation uses storytelling to reflect on its actions.
3 narrative practices increase impact
Professors Giada and Elena Dapiaz conducted a thematic and narrative analysis of Alessi’s chronicles to understand how they were used, and how they changed, over time. They found that the books tell a coherent story, despite being written over 3 decades and by different authors with different goals. “Alessi’s story is like a woven fabric made by interlacing distinct sets of threads,” says Professor Giada. “Our analysis uncovers three narrative practices that enabled Alessi to create a single piece of fabric and tell the coherent story of a successful transformation.”