There’s a constant challenge we face when working with narrative material in business – that at some deep level, employees feel a resistance to telling anecdotes and stories in the organisational setting. Sometimes the resistance is direct, “We don’t get paid to tell stories!”.
Somewhere in our history as people who have sold our souls to business, we have lost track of our natural ability to a) tell a story, and b) recognise when we are in fact relating a story to someone. Prof Dave Snowden has accounted for some of this change in a recent blog entry where he said this:
In the western tradition by allowing Andersen and the Brothers Grim to formalise our stories we froze them at a point in time and terminated their evolution.
I’m convinced that people have not lost the ability to tell stories in organisations, but that rather people have developed an ability to shroud their stories in opinion and analysis. Instead of telling a story, we now offer up opinions and analysis on the basis of the experience we’ve had.
And so, our naysayers are right, you don’t get paid to tell stories in business. Instead, we are incentivised to turn stories into general opinions and sterile analyses.
Dave will be running a Cognitive Edge accreditation course in SA from 3rd – 5th March 2008 where we’ll explore the phenomenon of stories and explore how to use them. Would be great to see you there.