Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Storytelling and Business

The inspiration for today's post comes from one of the chapters included in the 'Gower Handbook of Internal Communication' edited by Marc Wright.

The chapter I am going to focus these marginalia on is titled 'Storytelling and Business', written by Ian Buckingham and Paul Miller. I totally enjoyed reading it and I am looking forward to reading more resources from the authors.

As the title indicates, the chapter's topic relates to storytelling within the business context. However, I was fascinating by the way the authors presented the case. By extrapolating information from many others fields of studies, works and real practice experience they drew a compelling picture of the need for storytelling within organisations.

The below marginalia are pieces of writing selected from the chapter. As always, while hoping that you will enjoy reading these marginalia, I encourage you to take pleasure in reading the original source.

Stories are one of the most effective ways in which we communicate our view of reality to others. And if we are all seeing the world differently, then how much more important is to share our story and give others an indication of our view of the world, particularly if we happen to be in a leadership role or need to enlist others to help deliver?

And how essential is this process of communication in the business world when we talk in our team, groups and organisations about being on the same page?

We receive information about the world around us through our senses, we interpret the world through sensory information...

Stories might be defined as the art of drawing attention to a very specific series of events that require the audience to see, hear, feel, taste, smell and think.

Story is the art of taking another person on a tour of a different world or world of view with the aim of elucidating a particular point of possibility.

In the world of the story, in the specific view created, is an implicit set of values and beliefs.

We all understand that stories are never a replacement for vital information or indeed action but...people need purpose and they need to make sense of their lives, stories give them that. Even (or especially) stories about the business give them that.

While information assists knowledge, stories and metaphors create emotion and meaning. Stories and metaphors have a lasting effect because they make an emotional imprint on us; the sense is retained because stories create a felt-experience.


LEADERSHIP
If leadership is partly about inspiring a community of individuals to undertake a collective endeavour, then stories are essential to articulate that vision.

If you are delivering the 'who we are' (brand identity), 'this is where we are going' (mission/vision) and 'this is how we are going to get there' (strategy), don't rely too much on statistics alone to land the message...give (people) comparisons to help (them) understand, give (people) the story.

But for storytelling in business to have an impact and be useful, it presupposes acceptance, honesty, conscience, involvement and ethical objective.


COLLABORATION AND CONNECTION
It is true that some people are more adept or at home with left-brain (rational) activities, but they all have lives, a beating heart and a story to tell. 

The question in all our work is, how much of yourself are you leaving at the door when you enter work? (With) stories you break the work persona and create easy connections with others.

The exercise of revealing something of people life story is often the catalyst for deepening relationships with colleagues and with teams.

Stories are lying around waiting for a simple question to bring them to life...There will be a story behind your answer.”

It's sobering to reflect that much of what governs our lives is the sense we make from the stories we're told”
(Ian Buckingham and Paul Miller)