Perspective on Business Stories

November 8, 2002

in Brand Futures, Storytelling

I don’t think Steve will mind me posting these comments on below. <b><a href=””>Stephen Denning </a></b>is the author of <a href=”″><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=””><b>Group Jazz</b></a> It evolved into an interesting discussion on <a href=””>making stories</a>.

You may want to <b><a href=””>subscribe to Storytelling In Business</a></b> I’m certainly looking forward to participating there.

Steve’s recent comments:

<i>”The dynamic of business storytelling is different from professional storytelling. One needs to understand, and be responsive to, that dynamic if one is going to be effective in this different area.

Professional storytelling is often seen as bringing a new story to the listener, and immersing the listener fully and completely in the storyteller’s story. The listener is fully absorbed into the storyteller’s story as the storyteller evokes a different world with its sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings.

Business storytelling is more about understanding the story that the listener is currently living and stimulating a new story in the listener. My experience is that the listener’s story is more important than the storyteller’s story which is often no more than a prop to get the listeners to create a new story.

So to be effective in this area, one has to start from the ongoing story of business. A principal preoccupation of business these days is change. Hence “stories that promote change” are a central preoccupation. A <a href=””><b>Booz Allen study </b></a>concluded a few months back that this was the most important story in business right now.

So if this is the number one preoccupation of business, i.e. it’s their current top story, then “storytelling in business” in this area means that “your story” has to mesh with “their story” and has to be able to spark change in the mind of the listener.

Change isn’t the only preoccupation of business. I’m currently solliciting <b><a href=” “>feedback</a></b> on a torytelling fable which demonstrates how storytelling can address six other central preoccupations of business today – communicating who you are, what your values are, nurturing community, taming the grapevine, sharing knowledge and leading people into the future. These are other entry points, or issues that businesses are interested in. So businesses can become interested in
storytellers who can help them address these questions.

The pattern of story in each case is different. Stories that communicate who you are and stories that demonstrate values are perhaps the kinds of stories closest to the stories that professional storytellers are used to telling.

Overall, the difference between professional storytelling and business storytelling is a subject that is periodically discussed in this <b><a ref=””>listserv</a></b>
and elsewhere among practitioners and there are different viewpoints and nuances on it.</i>

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