The Power of a Story

August 16th, 2007

From the boardroom to the front lines, good storytelling has become the new secret weapon of communicating. Done well, storytelling gives meaning to a conversation, articulates a sales message, and in some cases – saves lives.

In 2005, John Lewis, a military officer patrolling in Fallujah, was severely injured by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED in the form of a roadside bomb. After coming back from Iraq, John had a chance conversation with an employee from Gestalt (full disclosure: they’re a client), a defense contractor, where he confessed his tragic story. John expressed that unfortunately, in this insurgent war, roadside bombs and injuries similar to the ones he had sustained aren’t rare. Soldiers have no means of learning from previous patrols where IEDs or other life threatening dangers are located. John mentioned that if there were means of tracking IEDs in a simple manner, it would help patrols avert danger, avoid injury, and in some cases, save lives.

The Gestalt employee who heard John’s poignant story was so moved that he pulled together a technology team to begin working on a solution. With existing technology, the Gestalt team built a prototype solution in just two weeks. The capability, called PatrolNet, enables soldiers on patrol to track the existence and specific geographic location of IEDs and other items and share that information on a cell phone.  Patrolnet has since become a catalyst for change with government research groups and related contracts.

But Gestalt didn’t stop there. Troops are filled with life-saving information as they develop new tactics and use military technologies everyday.  John’s story helped make it clear to people inside Gestalt how critical the interaction between warfighters and contractors is to the speedy development of new ways that can help avoid injuries and save lives. Gestalt now has a much keener eye toward getting new capabilities to the warfighter quicker, which is how was born.

Last week, the company launched, an online forum giving warfighters a place to share their ideas and needs with those who can act on them – top military and government officials and the contractors who serve them. On the site, soldiers from every military branch have the ability to log onto the website and share their thoughts on the tools and technologies to help make them more effective in war scenarios they face on a daily basis.

Gestalt will serve as an information conduit and innovation catalyst. The company will evaluate and investigate ideas that fall under Gestalt’s areas of expertise, and ideas outside of Gestalt’s expertise will be forwarded to appropriate military and government organizations.

While Gestalt has long been a proponent of streamlining the defense development and procurement process, it wasn’t until one employee heard a first-person account of the situation overseas until it could truly give thousands of troops around the world a place to share their stories.  Now, that is one good story.

Posted Under: Storytelling
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