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What is a Chief Storyteller? Five Business Leaders Share Their Stories

The word “Microsoft” will conjure an image in everyone’s mind, usually around software, Bill Gates, old-school technology, and corporations—at least, that’s what it used to be. Steve Clayton and his team are working to change that because Microsoft itself is changing.

As chief storyteller at Microsoft, Clayton is changing the public perception of the brand, from old-school to world-changing. He’s proud of the impact they’re making. It’s the stories about the impact of their technology in India that’s improving farmers yield by 30 percent. Or it’s the story of how the Skype translator is letting him talk to his Chinese mother-in-law for the first time and the impact that tech has had on his family.

“When we launched Windows 10,” he says, “which traditionally are these moments where you go and have a big celebration, we wanted to use the day to bring our mission to life instead, which is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We went to a village in the middle of Kenya and celebrated a group of local entrepreneurs who brought Wi-Fi connectivity to a community that never had that before. It was much more about celebrating the impact technology can have on 30,000 people effectively instead of celebrating the product we just launched. It’s very easy to slip into celebrating yourself and celebrating your product, but it’s a lot more rewarding to go and find stories of where those products actually have an impact.”

And therein is the power of storytelling in business. Clayton went from a computer engineer in Reading, UK, to starting a blog about his adventures in Microsoft, to being handpicked to move to Seattle and take on the mantle of chief storyteller—his dream job. (He tells the story of how he got the role in this TEDx Talk.) Now he’s on stage with the CEO launching new technology, or he’s at the helm of the wonderful Microsoft Stories Lab, oft-cited as one of the best content hubs out there.

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Lauren McMenemy

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