a_brnewman_1013In a recent Time magazine,Robert Redford reflects on his friendship with the late Paul Newman. He describes how they worked together and became friends in the tough movie industry. The pieceends with the following story, which I think perfectly illustrates how a story can convey so much more than facts. It gives us insight into the friendship and even the character of the two men, probably aspects that they would not be able to articulate when asked directly.

“We played lots of pranks on each other. I used to race cars, and after he took this rare Porsche I owned for a drive, he began to get into racing. He had incredible reflexes, and he got really good, but he talked so much about it that I got sick of it. So I had a beaten up Porsche shell delivered to his porch for his 50th birthday. He never said anything, but not long after, I found a crate of molten metal delivered to the living room of my (rented) house. It dented the floor. I then had it turned into a really ugly sculpture and dropped into his garden. To this day, neither one of us has ever mentioned it.”

This same principle is true in organisations, the stories told by employees can tell us a lot about the value system present in the environment, often at a level that no-one could articulate when asked directly.