As students at the University of Iowa’s Tipp School of Business prepare to enter the workforce, a new program is teaching them to tell their stories and personal experiences—a communication skill that’s valuable in their first job search and beyond. The Story Lab was created by the TP Leadership Collaborative, housed in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, a resource center for organizations seeking management expertise. The semester-long program includes a workshop, peer-to-peer training, and a networking event featuring participants’ stories.
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Desire: Nick Vestergaard, lecturer in management and entrepreneurship and program lead, says storytelling helps business leaders make their case more effectively to employees or investors by creating an emotional connection. The idea for the history lab came from a conversation with Leadership Collaborative Director Stephen Cortright about ways students can “build the foundation” for leadership. “Students and leaders… need to stand up and finally tell their stories. [That] That’s how the idea of Story Lab was born,” he says.
“Storytelling is a big part of how I teach communication in terms of the science of storytelling and its ability to persuade and move people,” Vestergaard said. And communication is “baked into our approach, from writers’ workshops in colleges, to science, health care and business, so it’s good for the University of Iowa as a whole,” he added.
Additionally, studies show that people are more likely to remember statistics and facts if they are presented in a story.
According to a study published in the 2018 issue, storytelling is one of the earliest communication strategies used by humans, and the role of storytelling in leadership is linked to leadership effectiveness. Journal of Leadership Education.
Laboratory work: Launched with funding from the Cooperative Executive Education Program, the lab begins with a day-long storytelling workshop where teachers help students develop quick storytelling and leadership skills through engaging activities. Participants will learn the basics of storytelling, receive feedback from a member of the Institute’s management faculty, and receive guidance from peer mentors as they develop their ideas. How to tell a storyThe Moth, a non-profit organization dedicated to art and storytelling, serves as a published course manual.
At the MERGE Innovation Center in downtown Iowa City, a showcase with members of the local business community and the general public is planned for the end of the semester. Working with the theme “Future Time,” each student shares a short story about a time when everything seemed mapped out and about changing points, taking the road less traveled, or starting over toward or away from a goal.
What will the future hold? In business, leaders often try to motivate people to work toward a common goal, Courtright says. “It is very important for the leaders to gain the credibility of those they lead. Telling your story is a way for people to gain credibility.
Courtright launched the TP Partnership in 2020 to provide customized training for managers and employers. He says that when business leaders talk to organizations about the skills they need, the same myth comes up again and again. “We had the funding for it, we had the capacity for it. And it’s a real strategic benefit for the students,” says Courtright.
Developing storytelling skills
The Chicago-based Leadership Story Lab is a place where people from their careers come together to build the tools to tell the stories that define anyone as a persuasive leader. The firm promotes the ability to “stand out in the interview process, add punch to presentations, make compelling cases for new initiatives and build your team.” Online business history trainer training is also provided.
History Maker Experiences: “One of the things I hear from the students’ responses is the new network and the current experience of people who have close connections, each telling their story,” Cortright explains.
Drew John, a junior studying management, is one of the first 15 students enrolled in the program. He said the lesson reminds him of the exercises and how to do it so that people can better understand him in both his business and personal life. Jordon believes this course will enable him to become a relevant business leader.
“I’m individualistic, at least before this experience, in terms of knowing what I can do,” says Jorn. But other people do not always understand this, so you have to teach yourself, and this is part of the story.
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