Remember your mother telling you “Don’t tell stories”? Naturally, we would all uphold this parental injunction to instill truthful behaviour into children.
But a new trend in business communication is developing which at first sight seems to fly in the face of our early upbringing – Organisational Storytelling.
Modern leaders and organisations are rediscovering the power of Stories. Narrative approaches are beginning to be used in Education, Business, Social Care & Health Care to develop reflective & communication skills & appreciation of diverse views, e.g. Patients’ Journeys, and for Quality Improvement of Services, or for Community Liaison and Empowerment.
But what exactly is a Story?
I like this definition: “A Story is something with a beginning – a Muddle – and an End!” (Avi). Stories have this familiar pattern. Think of any fairy story, novel or indeed film plot. A beginning that establishes Context, a middle that showcases Conflict, and an ending that brings Resolution.
Stories have always been the lifeblood of any Family or Community - and increasingly of Teams and Organisations.
We encounter the traditional folk tale and legend, or Stories drawn from real-life, the case study or knowledge sharing session. Stories show up in presentations, in blogs, in work-place conversations, be they formal or informal.
These days storytelling is considered to be a vital leadership skill, an opportunity to engage with others and to enter a “larger language” together (David Whyte, Harvard Business Review, May 2007). As well as connecting us, stories free up our creative thinking. As De Bono says, “In a crisis you need more thinking. Creative ideas are as important as legal affairs or finance.”
So why is it that Stories have such power to connect, engage and inspire?
A quick glance at Neuroscience reveals that the brain’s tri-part architecture, through its Limbic System, provides the means to connect with others. Our brain chemistry and nervous systems are measurably affected by those closest to us, known as Limbic Resonance. We can be affected and connected by Stories because of Limbic Resonance.
Stories provide the ideal environment and means for this connection to happen at a meaningful level, i.e. not simply because of duty or transactional requirement.
In modern life, Stories can be used as powerful springboards to organisational health, effective teams, personal development, wellbeing and engagement. According to Lori Silverstein (Wake Me Up When the Data is Over) seventeen percent of organisations surveyed reported increased levels of engagement between people and the organization and/or higher levels of teamwork.
Says leadership consultant Stephen Denning "Stories can entertain, convey information, preserve cultures, build relationships and communities and change organisations.”
Clearly the power of Stories still shapes our identity today, and is an important tool for making sense of our relationships and experiences and empowering our collective efforts.
“If you don't know the trees you may be lost in the forest,
but if you don't know the Stories you will be lost in life.”
Lisa Rossetti's work honours the crucial role that story has in every aspect of our lives.
Story creation usually requires the highest brain functioning and most complex kinds of thinking. Stories reach places other forms of human communication cannot even fathom!
Interacting with stories transports us into metaphor, into empathy, prediction, analytical thinking, strategic thinking and so much more...
The power of such thinking is immeasurable and when introduced into the workplace can be truly transformational!
Are there stories that have transformed your life? Share your thoughts on the power of Storytelling for adults...