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IKEA Storytelling at #ele12

Everybody loves films. At IKEA they have used the concept of storytelling in various ways, but it always comes down on behavior change.

Maggie Shelton directly makes a point: Learning is not about telling, giving your conclusions to someone-else. People need motivation and engagement to learn.

Maggie asks the crowd “What is storytelling about?” The audience comes up with answers like sharing, personal, putting something in context.

The power of storytelling becomes immediately clear when Maggie starts the first short movie. An individual who tells a very personal story about what’s the thing about attitude and culture at Ikea. It makes everyone stuck to the screen. Very simple, very relevant.

The second movie has almost the same effect. It tells us a story about the essence of the IKEA’s flatpacks, the way IKEA manages to sell products which are not assembled. It is like magic. When I looked around, I heard people laughing, saw them nodding etc. They just ‘get it’.
Maggie explains that it works because it comes from the ‘source’. Storytelling is all about using trust and authenticity. If somebody else told the story, it would be ‘fake authenticity’ and it just won’t work.

One of the interesting things of the IKEA project is the way how they manage to create and collect all these movies. The IKEA toolbox offers a video platform which contains all the IKEA stories. Editing the movies is not necessary, it’s just the ease of sharing. It is like a corporate youtube channel. To launch the page they send DVD out to their employees.

Maggie also mentions that it is possible to use contradicting stories to make a point and to facilitate discussions. Halfway the talk she asks the crowd if there are any questions.

How do you get people to tell the stories?
They had a team who filmed the people who send in their story. 

Is it open for public?
No, it is not. It is pretty unlikely that it will be open to the public. It is not about IKEA, it’s about the people.

Why did you send a dvd instead of mailing a link to the platform?
A simple answer is that such mails are seen as spam. Also in the beginning the IKEA Stories did not have the platform they have now.

Who chooses the topics?
People come up with ideas. As things come up they just point and shoot.

Do you use the IKEA Stories for other purposes?
No, the Stories have become their own ‘brand’. They don’t use it to drive short time change. But of course you can incorporate them in training.

Ikea Home furnishing introduction:
how to connect all employees to what is home furnishing about? This is related to the mission statement of IKEA: “How can we make a better everyday life for the many”. What is the impact people have on the IKEA products. Designing a concept for all the 150.000 co-workers (the most diversed target group Maggie ever worked for), was not an easy job. They made a story about a guy who is very messy. The story is divided into 3 chapters, after each one some questions are asked. They translated the movie into 28 languages. There is a big contrast to the simple and raw produced IKEA stories. The production is of a very high standard.
Again the crowd is stuck to the screen. They laugh, nod, look like they understand the struggle of the messy guy. The movie gives Maggie a context to ask questions about the way the guy is living. Why he is only filmed in the kitchen and the living room?


  • Great read,thanks. Is it complete at the end? I’m sorry I missed this seminar, these examples probaly won’t be online. 
    IKEA has a wonderful vision on learning. How would this solution combine with their focus on little learning cycles in everyday work?