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June 19, 2002

Stories Accelerate Learning

Another positing from the online converation with Terrence L. Gargiulo and Making Stories A Practical Guide for Organizational Leaders and Human Resource Specialists.


Stories help learning when they stimulate and shape conversation. Stories that are part of a network conversational exchange really accelerate learning. Thus one on one storytelling has no where near the same impact as collective story-making. The latter brings a real sense of ownership and understanding. Some call this "the art of the strategic conversation".
The interest in business story-telling seems to coincide with an increase in uncertainty in the workplace. Similarly as we move to more networked org forms, we need to enrich the pipes (info flows) without overloading everyone with data.

The book Future Search has a wonderful story - timeline exercise in the beginning of the book. It builds a collective sense of where we have come from, our organization, and the world around us. Individuals post their events on the three timelines and three groups typically report back, with a story about the people in the room, and how the organization and world has changed and impacted on us collectively. This rapidly establishes a collective story about the past for any group.

Stories being posed for the future may entertain more debate. One of the reasons I became a passionate scenarist was seeing too many organizations fall over a single vision / story for the future. A story that is too structured limits learning. Successful strategies and stories are often the result of unintended consequences.

Today innovation rules - stories / rapid conversations and learning are an essential part of the prototyping process which leads to markets. Actually, stories don't accelerate learning, "insights" accelerate learning. However, stories may frame the connection that enable new insights.

For example there have been stories around TIVO, online music sharing, satellite, cable TV and perceptions of where they are going. Recently they were reframed --- File-Served TV --- a new vision & direction. Except I doubt this is the end of the story....... That in itself is both refective and iterative.

I'd be interested in the contrast between a world in which story-telling was between cave-dwellers and in today's - tomorrow's highly networked world. Are effective stories synthesized now rather than told? Similarly, is "chat" creating a new framework for the realtime story? What happens if a leader isn't in the "chat" group?

June 26, 2002

More on Stories Accelerating learning

It's not yet over. You can still get to the Group Jazz Chataqua...

How does the example of receiver based learning fit with our discussions so far? Example: In a skyscraper there are many xerox repairers busy fixing the copier on each of the different floors. They are linked together (open communication line) and constantly talking through the repairs they are completing. Most of the time the talk is just noise, yet the other repairers are also absorbing other problems and can offer suggestions / ask questions. This speeds learning across the system.

I've often wondered if this works at Old Navy stores? Does anyone know? They all wear the headsets, yet there doesn't seem to be much chatter going on. Yet here's a customer service / sales interfacing organization that should learn how to sell faster, train faster etc. It certainly has the opportunity to be more than a neat positioning trick. If so I'd expect more stores to be connected up.

June 27, 2002

Scenarios & Stories

Another positing from the online converation with Terrence L. Gargiulo and Making Stories A Practical Guide for Organizational Leaders and Human Resource Specialists.

I wonder... How many of you would jump on a 747 with a pilot that had never trained in a flight simulator? We know that pilots train in simulators on the ground to better prepare themselves for eventualities and challenges that many never happen. They also train for landings at airports that will appear on their schedules in the future. Unfortunately few teams have the opportunity provided by the flight simulator.

I tend to think of scenarios as a flight simulator for management. Framed well they are hypothesis of alternate environments in which our decisions may have to play out. They do not represent the future story of the company. By windtunnelling (or testing) current strategies against a range of alternate scenarios an organization improves its potential to minimize risk. Scenarios need to be customized to context if they are to be useful.

Scenarios as a form of story-telling work because they are framed around critical uncertainties (simplistic example - boom or bust economy). By building scenarios around uncertainty we are 1)opening and focusing minds on what is both important to the issue at hand and uncertain as to outcome. 2)critical uncertainties are more likely to take us to the edge of chaos where new ideas, solutions etc are most likely to emerge. 3)Scenarios must be plausible, therefore drilling down to changes in the sytemic underpinnings is important to building understanding and retaining credibilty. In this form they provide story telling and structure that not only helps to minimize risk about the decisions we must make today, but they are used to accelerate learning. When we accept that Planning is learning, (not extrapolation)then we also embrace that it may be the only way to sustainable competitive advantage.

As an organization (like the pilot) reacts to new inputs, better questions are what sustains success. The future is inherently unpredictable. Yet with very little effort we can bring in stories from the outside - so we think better inside the box. In a networked world --- connectivity is driving this. If you are a cellular carrier you better be thinking about swarms, if you are a health provider, genetic testing is already here. If you are a cotton producer, perhaps you should look at goat silk. From time to time an organization should look at everything, a "ruthless curiosity" is healthy. If stories and hypothesis get you to where you can really "listen" then success in the marketplace is much more viable. Scenarios are just one tool for getting us

I agree Stephen with your comment to find a star to peg future stories. I've always felt that the 1 to 2 word strategic intent was the right way to go. They work when stretch is involved. Effective leaders also cut the time for delivery. A yet they are also falible. Years ago Motorola - Wireless World (It led them to Irridium!)Motorola was so focused on their story they didn't pay attention to the Nokia's etc of the world. More recently Motorola has use "Intelligence Everywhere" For my two cents another example of introverted disaster. There is no benefit for "us" in this. Many of the early ad campaigns were close to I spy.

November 8, 2002

Perspective on Business Stories

I don't think Steve will mind me posting these comments on below. <b><a href="http://www.stevedenning.com">Stephen Denning </a></b>is the author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0750673559/qid=1036975620/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/104-6228614-7676733?v=glance&s=books&n=507846"><b>The Springboard</b></a>. I met him some years back briefly at a KM conference in London, where he put more powerpoints across in a short time than I have ever seen before. In the blur a great story about the World Bank experience emerged. More recently we had an online discussion faciliated by <b>Lisa Kimball </b>at <a href="http://www.groupjazz.com"><b>Group Jazz</b></a> It evolved into an interesting discussion on <a href="http://groupjazz.com/chautauqua/">making stories</a>.

You may want to <b><a href="StorytellingInBusiness-subscribe@yahoogroups.com">subscribe to Storytelling In Business</a></b> I'm certainly looking forward to participating there.

Steve's recent comments:

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November 9, 2002

Let Your Screen Tell a Story

Read David Gelerntner today in the New York times:
"What is this universal information structure? A narrative stream, which says, "Let me tell you a story. " The system shows you a 3-D stream of electronic documents flowing through time."

"And so the organization of your digital information reflects the shape of your life, not the shape of a 1940's Steelcase file cabinet. "

Looks like we are all going to become better storytellers. See also my post from October 31.

November 5, 2003

Rembrandt's Narratives

Seeing the New Yorker on Rembrandt's narratives made me wish I was in Boston today. While I don't think the author had audio-photo-geo-blogging on the mind --- he's does advocate the time has come for more engaging art. It also reminded me of a conversation with the Green Museum and spreading environmental art via RSS!

The New Yorker: The Critics: The Art World

Was Rembrandt's art the movies of its day? You may say so if you're careful to add that it also performed functions of photography, fiction, theatre, theology, and social anthropology all with an individualism that engendered continual audacities of technique and style. (Often, you know that a Rembrandt is finished only because, at a certain unruly-looking stage, he signed it.) His was a sensibility new in history, born of the freedoms and appetites of a triumphant bourgeoisie. Twentieth-century types for whom bourgeois was a curse had a problem with that.
In a real and delightful way, this most famous of artists remains to be discovered in the manner that he palpably anticipated picture by picture, one viewer at a time. Rembrandt is in the details. The quality for which he is inevitably praised, humanity, is too nebulous. Personality is more like it. Intimate with both subject and viewer, he dissolves emotional distances......


But I think that we are already seeing a shift of emphasis in art away from precious self-contemplation and toward eloquent engagement with the world. The means may not be painting.

About Storytelling

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in the Storytelling category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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