TO USE STORY
relevance and potential application in the world of work has few
Storytelling’s contribution cuts across every division, department
and domain of the modern organization. Anywhere you have people
interacting, relating and communicating with each other, story has
a role to play.
who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives
— the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about
it, and change it as times change — truly are powerless, because
they cannot think new thoughts."
— Salman Rushdie
role of any great leader is to tell stories that influence and motivate
people into action. Not just any action, but purposeful
action that addresses the needs of the organization.
Story is a red-hot theme in the world of leadership including a
recent article in the Harvard
Business Review about the CEO as Storyteller.
the perfect vehicle for communicating ideas, values, principles,
expectations, and the like. The only way to ensure everyone is on
the same page is through the use of effective stories.
"Whatever simultaneously connects
to something relevant and meaningful to your listeners and gives
them a taste of who you are, works."
– Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor
Effective stories serve as anchors, frames, and metaphors
that orient people to their work.
marketplace is demanding that we burn the policy manuals and knock
off the incessant memo writing; there’s just no time. It also demands
we empower everyone to constantly take initiatives. It turns out
stories are a – if not the – leadership answer to both issues."
– Tom Peters, business mgmt. guru
is a rising star in a field dominated by technology solutions.
Story humanizes the process of knowledg management. As organizations
struggle to cope with more and more information, storytelling plays
a key role in how information travels, lessons are learned, and
new communities of practice are formed.
and developed by institutions as diverse as the World Bank, IBM,
Bristol Myers Squibb and Royal Dutch/Shell, storytelling is making
contributions to successful knowledge organizations.
For deep insights
on the World Bank story, please see Steve Denning’s book The
Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations.
Transfer Knowledge: If you want to teach, or if you want to set
up a killer database that everyone will contribute to and use, make
sure your subject-matter is stories. Distilling stories to ‘lessons’
destroys the essence of their value by disabling the learner’s ability
to internalize, digest, and learn from, the contextualized experience
of the teacher."
– David Pollar, salon.com
is a robust way to share knowledge.
Larry Prusak and Don Cohen, co-authors of In Good Company, How
Social Capital Makes Organizations Work, "Storytelling
is increasingly seen as an important tool for communicating explicit
and especially tacit knowledge – not just information but know-how."
Did you know
that NASA launched a magazine to tackle its knowledge management
challenge? The organization uses story to (1) celebrate its culture
of problem-solving and (2) document institutional wisdom for its
next generation of leaders and managers. Visit
the award-winning ASK magazine on the web.
is forged and promoted through the use of story. How people
relate to an organization — their emotional connection can be strengthened
and enhanced through the communications of the right story line.
But more than just dramatics, organizations must learn to embody
their stories across everything they do – effectively shaping their
culture around the stories they tell themselves and the world.
great brand is a story that’s never completely told. A brand
is a metaphorical story that connects with something very deep –
a fundamental appreciation of mythology. Stories create the emotional
context people need to locate themselves in a larger experience.”
– Scott Bedbury, author of New Brand World and a key mastermind
behind the Nike and Starbucks brands.
Planning is deeply entwined with your organization’s story.
Popularized through the practice of scenario planning, storytelling
is an effective tool for exploring the different frames of how an
organization sees itself:
- What is your
shared memory of the past?
- What are
your dreams and aspirations for the future?
- What effect
do these both have on your identity today?
- What parts
of your memory serve your desired future?
- What parts
of your memory are holding you back?
Imagine if an
organization could honestly and easily answer these questions? They’d
be ready to take on the world in a bold, focused and determined
dream that I dream alone is but only a dream. But a dream that we
dream together is reality”
-Raul Seixas, Brazilian composer
keep many organizations from operating at peak performance.
You need to create ways of letting people connect outside traditionally
defined roles and tasks. Let people see the bigger picture of how
their work contributes to the whole.
can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer
the question ‘Of what story do I find myself a part?’ "
– Alisdair MacIntyre, author of After Virtue
If you can create
new bonds of relationship and communication, you will transform
the culture of your organization. Storytelling is a key vehicle.
One such way
is through Communities of Practice. If you want to explore this
topic, be sure to review Seth Kahan’s Guidelines
for Growing Business Performance Communities.
Looking to integrate
a new member onto your team and into your organization’s culture?
Storytelling is here to help. Madelyn Blair has written a case study
that shows the winning combination between Story
and Teams (.pdf).
Seth Kahan has
developed a powerful storytelling process for use in many group
settings. Download the JumpStart
Storytelling Process (.pdf)