Monthly Archives: February 2009


Setting up the story

I suspect this cartoon holds some deeper wisdom and insight than we'd initially assume. One of our frustrations here at The Narrative Lab is how the discipline of business has attempted to thwart our natural ability to tell stories, especially around the board room table. How did this happen? Well, it was one too many business executives attempting to "set up the story" by not letting the story tell itself and trying to spell things out for their staff ... [...]

By |February 27th, 2009|Categories: Narrative|0 Comments

So, what do YOU believe?

I always enjoy Bob Sutton's blog.  He lists 15 things that he believes in, it begs the question ... do you know what it is that you believe in? Our beliefs determine our behavior, so it's probably not a bad idea to articulate the things you believe in.  Here's his list ... 1. Sometimes the best management is no management at all -- first do no harm! 2. Indifference is as important as passion. 3. In organizational life, you can have [...]

By |February 24th, 2009|Categories: Management, Talent|0 Comments

Dealing with starfish: lessons from the Apaches

Following on from my previous post where we used the metaphor of Starfish and Spiders to look at distributed vs centralised organisations or complex vs ordered problems, let's explore how one would go about dealing with Starfish problems. Using old-fashioned frontal or direct assault techniques when attacking a Starfish problem or organisation actually strengthens it, making it more open and more decentralised.  Death-blows are temporary, and in the end makes matters worse as it doubles the threat.  There are several reasons for [...]

Sales pitch

On the weekend Mike Stopforth asked the Twitter community to share what their sales pitches were, in 140 characters or less. Novel idea in line with the whole elevator pitch meme. Well, here's what my response was: R u aware of the stories told by ur staff & consumers abt ur Co or brand? I'll help u gather & harness them for better decision making. See some of the other pitch's here.

Of spiders and starfish

I recently heard someone use this metaphor for the first time, and found it really interesting. In essense, spiders and starfish may look alike, both being multi-legged creatures, but upon investigation prove to be very different.  Cut a leg off a spider, and you get a slightly disabled seven-legged (less effective) creature; cut off its head and you have a dead spider. In contrast, if you cut off the arm of a starfish, it will grow a new one. Even [...]

Narrative therapy basics

This image (from Dave's recent post on the Liverpool Slavery Museum) highlights the interplay between a dominant and alternative story, and how an alternative story can be freeing. What do I mean? Well, my background lies in narrative therapy - a new wave in the psychology domain that takes a narrative perspective on a persons problems and life. In essence, the way we speak about ourselves and our problems creates the reality we live in. If words are so important, then the way [...]

Mine safety – over-focus on compliance

The recent Presidential Mine Safety Audit has caused a ruckus on the wires for reporting that compliance with safety legislation in the South African mining industry is a mere 66%. We find this interesting in light of our just-released narrative research with Deloitte into the state of mine safety in the country. Our report (click here to download) highlighted the evident gap between the complex nature of the problems facing mine safety and the ordered solutions being utilized to address these problems. One [...]

The conversation that’s happening, right now, in your organisation?

I've recently begun an experiment ... I've joined Twitter. Some have admonished me for being so late in joining the party, and others have responded with a quizzical look that says "is this the thing that geeks do?" A week into it and I have found it to be quite a natural extension to the status updates I do on Facebook, but with an edge. Twitter interests me because of the unstructured way in which people can broadcast thoughts, activities, links [...]

Mine safety – narrative research with Deloitte

Towards the end of 2008 we partnered with Deloitte Consulting on a research project aimed at the field of mine safety. We are painfully aware of how mine safety needs to improve, especially within the South African deep level mining context. Nicolaas Herholdt approached us to partner with him in developing a Point of View that uncovers new and important insights into mine safety that might assist in addressing the way in which safety statistics have plateaued. The reality is that despite all the [...]