participants in the Stanford LEAD Program

The Innovation Playbook: Designing Stories for Impact

Studies show that we are wired to remember stories much more than data, facts and figures. Stories galvanize. They fuel stakeholder buy-in by painting a clear picture of what is and what could be for everyone — from employees to investors to customers. Further, when the stakeholder becomes part of the story, they are more likely to act.

Story is equally important for leaders, whose signature stories — both business and personal — impact recruiting, retention, and growth of the company and whether they themselves are productive, creative and in fact happy. But stories are written by your actions, not your words.


In the Innovation Playbook course, Professor Aaker will demonstrate how leaders use signature stories to build high performing teams and companies, and make them come alive through a playbook. We will look at what actions you are taking, what stories they tell, and how you can change what you are doing to have the results you want. This course is designed to give leaders the tools to highlight their own signature stories in a way that can provide value to their companies and in people’s lives.

You’ll leave with the ability to curate, craft, and tell stories effectively — and to harness story to drive growth.

Course Goals

  • Demonstrate how leaders use personal stories to build high-performing teams and companies.
  • Share best practices by CEOs and leaders from companies like Salesforce, Nike, Pixar, and Tory Burch to illuminate how to harness story as an asset.
  • Help you develop an innovation playbook — which is a digital, dynamic, living sketch of your company’s future — and the story of how you plan to get there.

In the course, we will:

  • Start with a live session where you will learn how to build out six-word stories, and delve into the behavioral research and the design thinking process to help you glean insights from users to define your signature story.
  • Watch video cases from successful global companies that will show you how to operationalize these insights in real life.
  • Work with personal coaches to elevate your stories and hone your skills.
  • Build your own innovation playbook to effectively align stakeholders with your vision.
  • Participate in a live “story-off” with fellow LEAD participants at the end of the course.

Key Topics

  • The power of story
  • Designing signature stories for innovation
  • Crafting personal signature stories to inspire and lead
  • Behavioral research on happiness, meaning, and impact

Course Faculty


Marineh Lalikian
Director, Stanford LEAD Online Business Program Executive Education