When I played tennis in Wimbledon … That sounds like a fair opening to a worthwhile story, doesn’t it? And in a way it really is. A touch of fame and glory, and with an unexpected twist to come. More about that in a minute.
Company websites often share inspiring founders’ stories reflecting new ideas, shared purpose, and core human values. Almost all companies confess to common beliefs in environmental and social sustainability, but without a genuine personal story it remains … generic. Like, who doesn't, who cares?
Corporate storytelling is by no means a new idea. When I worked with the Philips group in the 1970s, the company had more than half a million employees. The popular company story was not about Philips the inventor. Thomas Edison had already realised the bright idea of the incandescent lamp bulb at his lab in Menlo Park.
No, it was about Anton, son of Frederik Philips who had founded the company in 1891. Anton saved the still struggling startup by traveling to Russia in 1898 to light up the Hermitage in St Petersburg. That was in the times of the tsars, and the sales trip was a huge gamble that set off a business avalanche, first in lamps, then radio and tv, household appliances, medical equipment, IT ... A much better story, in my mind.
Around the turn of the millennium, numerous stories about IT startups largely evolved into one myth about young geniuses spending long nights in front of computer screens, energised by Jolt Cola. The reason behind its popularity in this exclusive consumer category was said to be the exceptionally high percentage of caffein, twice as much as in Coca Cola. The original energy soft drink. That's a really powerful myth ... for Jolt Cola.
Now everything seems to be about AI. Some companies, like Phyron AI, develop and market truly disruptive AI-based services, highlighting proven, practical and financial benefits for the users. Others talk and write about fantastic ideas and futures. Or about AI itself.
There are AI solutions for storytelling too. Commercial film writers in Hollywood and elsewhere are already using them for various purposes. “The question is if it has the ability to create compelling and engaging plots.”
So, before I forget, what about that epic tennis game?
I was actually there when John McEnroe beat the 5-time Wimbledon champion Björn Borg in the Gentlemen’s Singles in 1981. Not “there” like on the court or in the audience, but at least I heard the excited cheering from our garden on nearby Arthur Road. And, as a temporary expat with a rented house in the neighbourhood, my multi-talented wife and I had bought two basic tennis rackets and attempted to learn the noble game on a nearby open court. Couldn’t resist the idea.
In all honesty I suck at sports, all kinds of sports, and I gave up long before she did. Even Björn himself quit soon thereafter. On January 23, 1983 he officially announced his retirement at age 26. He had a kind of relapse later but that's ... another story.
Phyron Writer and Editor