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MBA JAMS - Storytelling

Harnessing the Power of Stories

Joe Fauth

on 1 April 2015

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Transcript of MBA JAMS - Storytelling

Intro Slide 2
Intro Slide 1
Harnessing the Power of Storytelling
Historical Basis Slide 1
Historical Basis Slide 2
Scientific Basis 1
Scientific Basis 2
Evolutionary Basis 1
Evolutionary Basis 2
But We've Progressed Beyond Stories, Right?
We live in a digital information age. Data surrounds us!

Scientific method has taught us that nothing is “true” if we can’t “prove” it is “true” by repeated experiments. [Simmons 2007]
Our ability to collect and present data and use it for rational decision-making is better than ever.
But…”clear communications, objective thinking, and rational decision making has its limitations when applied to the unclear, subjective, and multirational (everyone has their own ratio these days) world.” [Simmons 2007]
Our Ability to Tell and Use Stories Is Better than Ever
The Internet now serves as a unified source of collective information from disparate sources
Documenting, memorializing, disseminating stories
Breadth of information provides detail and context

Prominent uses of stories today (besides entertainment):
Politics, mobilizing action (e.g. State of the Union ‘guests’)
Business (e.g. Patagonia, Huggies [Caproni 2012])

Putting Stories to Use
First step in telling a story is knowing what you want to achieve

analyze mistakes and failures
unexpected opportunities
risk and reward
choices and consequences
lessons learned
overcome obstacles and challenges
advice from a mentor
inspirational examples

Some common uses for leadership stories [Harris & Barnes 2006]
“Know why you are telling the story and the key beliefs or values that you want to express” [Caproni 2012]

Introduction, persuasion, teaching, motivation?
Use the Right Type of Story
Once you know your purpose, you need to choose the story type that best suits your message
Annette Simmons’ [2006] describes six story types that leaders should consider:

Who I Am
Why I Am Here
Values in Action
I Know What You Are Thinking
Story Types
Who-I-Am Stories
Purpose is to illustrate your own personal qualities or values
Explain to the audience why this is important to them
Excellent tool for building trust [Simmons 2006]
Why-I-Am-Here Stories
“When someone assumes you are there to sell an idea that will cost them money, time, or resources, it immediately discredits your ‘‘facts’’ as biased. However, you chose your job for reasons besides money. Tell this person what you get out of it besides money. Or if it is just about the money for you, own it.” [Simmons 2006]
Teaching Stories
“Certain lessons are best learned from experience - some of them over and over again during a lifetime. Patience, for instance. You can tell someone to ‘‘be patient,’’ but it’s rarely helpful. Better to tell a story that creates a shared experience (simulated, of course) of patience along with the rewards of patience. Your story will change behavior much better than advice.” [Simmons 2006]
Vision Stories
“A worthy, exciting future story reframes present difficulties as ‘‘worth it.’’ Big projects and new challenges are difficult and frustrating for implementers who weren’t in on the decision. Without a vision, these meaningless frustrations suck the life energy out of a group. With an engaging vision, however, huge obstacles shrink to small irritants on the path to a worthwhile goal. (Note: Vision stories that promise more than they deliver do more damage than good.)” [Simmons 2006]
Values-in-Action Stories
“To one person, integrity means doing what his boss tells him to do. To someone else, integrity means saying no even if it costs her job. If you want to encourage a value or teach a value you have to provide a ‘‘demonstration’’ by telling a story that illustrates in action what that value means, behaviorally. Hypothetical situations sound hypocritical and preachy. Be specific.” [Simmons 2006]
I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories
“People like to stay safe. Many times they have already made up their mind, with specific objections to the ideas you bring. They don’t come out and say, ‘‘I’ve already decided this is hogwash,’’ but they might be thinking it. It is a trust-building surprise for you to share their secret suspicions in a story that first validates and then dispels these objections without sounding defensive.” [Simmons 2006]
Build the Story
The most effective stories have a distinct structure, with the most well-known being Freytag’s Pyramid. [Monarth 2014]
Shakespeare was a master at this structure, organizing his plays into five acts that correspond almost exactly with these elements. [Monarth 2014]
Build It Your Way...
Despite the success of the Freytag structure, you don’t have to be limited by it.
Renowned screenwriting teacher Robert McKee (2003) claims that the only essential element in a story is the struggle between subjective expectation and “cruel” reality.
“As a storyteller, you want to position the problems in the foreground and then show how you’ve overcome them.” (McKee 2003)
With this understanding, an effective story can be told in just a few sentences, which is sometimes all the time you have.
Characteristics of a powerful story [Caproni]:
Concrete, temporal, and action oriented
Friendly, not cynical
Appeal to uniqueness
Shared by many people

“According to the elders of my tribe, the Nez Perce Indians handed down their
values and history through oral tradition for centuries. Particularly during the long winters, when people gathered in longhouses, stories were passed on to younger generations who, in turn, would repeat those passages for their children. To keep the culture preserved, such speakers had to be observant, accurate, objective, and bear excellent communication skills.”

- Brian Bull, reporter with Wisconsin Public Radio [Merina]

Importance of Storytelling
Conveys meaning and purpose
Validates structure and leadership
Assumes or assigns responsibility
Encourages sharing and collaboration
Enhances listening and understanding
Promotes culture and vision
Facilitates growth and development

Each trait plays a significant role in the modern workplace environment as organizations assert
purpose, leadership, responsibility, collaboration, understanding, vision, and development to achieve
their objectives

Narrative Paradigm Theory (NPT) [Barker & Gower]
Power and scope derived from its ability to communicate and assess values, and the interpretation of those values summon human action
All forms of human communication best relayed as stories
Ability to swiftly and effectively share and understand business information along the organizational diversity continuum and the resulting swifter actions and reactions allow organizations to move more quickly and competently through their fast-paced environments

NPT Continued [Barker & Gower]
Outcomes of effective storytelling in organizations
Persuasive communication
Quick dissemination of information
Values-based framing of organizational objectives
Promote organizational culture through social contexting

Our species is fundamentally distinct from other primates because of our abilities to create
both rules-based language and fiction

According to evolutionary psychologists [Yang]
Our brains are neural information processors
Our minds are equipped with massive adapted psychological mechanisms
Neural networks in our brains selectively retained through natural selection
Massive, evolved psychological algorithms that helped our ancestors survive and reproduce under ancient environmental pressures
Certain inherited tendencies are maladaptive to the modern work environment

Multiple functions of storytelling (relevant for the
modern workplace) [Yang]
Status & Power
Verbal Play

Importance of hearing and telling stories [Caproni]
Remember our past
Make sense of our present
Create our future

Easy to recall and remember
Simplification of complexities

Key Skills For Good Storytelling
Make it personal
Always consider your audience
Keep it simple but captivating
Make sure listeners are getting the proper message
Use your imagination
Be animated
Practice makes perfect
Steps to Creating a Great Story
Specify your message
Identify personal experiences
Disclosing weaknesses will build trust between you and your listeners
Connect the story to your listeners
Be animated in your presentation to captivate your listeners
The Icebreaker
The best stories begin with an icebreaker
"I had to learn this the hard way..."
"I had to accept failure before I could succeed..."
"I took a risk and it turned out for the better..."
Themes in Storytelling
Choices and consequences
Overcoming a challenge
Being inspired by an individual
Learning from a mentor
Learning from a mistake
Finding a meaning through failure
Five Steps in Telling a Story
1. Establish the setting
2. Build the plot
3. Resolve the crisis
4. Describe the lesson learned
5. Explain how the experience changed the characters
The Do's and Don'ts of Storytelling
Find inspiration in your experiences
Always consider your audience
Have a concrete message
overwhelm your audience with unnecessary details
Make yourself the center focus of the story
Assume your message is clear
Common Mistakes and Pitfalls in Storytelling
Audience does not properly understand the message
The story is too long and the audience loses focus
The story falls short of captivating the audience
The story does not end on a strong note
The story is unrelated to the audience
The story is outdated
How to Avoid Storytelling Pitfalls
Create a dialogue with listeners to make sure proper message was understood
Keep the story short and concise
Maintain enthusiasm throughout the story
Do research on your listeners prior to telling the story to make sure it relates to them
Tell stories with present-day take-aways
Access to more stories in more media than ever : TV, movies, music, books, etc.
And people keep making more!

When To Apply Powerful Storytelling
Gargiulo, T. "Power of Stories: Storytelling Can Help Your Organization Adapt to Changing Conditions and Respond to Business Challenges by Improving Communication, Fostering Learning, and Building Institutional Wisdom." Journal for Quality and Participation. 29.1 (2006): 4-8. Print.
Harness The Power
Every problem in the world can be addressed, solved, made bearable even eliminated with better storytelling. [Simmons, 2007]
Great story tellers do not only actively listen to stories but they are conscious of the stories in their own minds.
Connect and absorb stories to accompany your own actions.
Full transcript