Conversation agents

With all credit to Sonja on this one, we're toying with the idea of changing our title's and job descriptions within The Narrative Lab. For a loooong time, we have been uncomfortable with describing ourselves as "consultants". While it may be true that we're consultative in our way of putting together projects of an emergent nature for our clients, we are certainly not consultants of the traditional fold. And so, we've been grappling with a title that brings together the [...]

By |October 19th, 2009|Categories: Culture|0 Comments

Storytelling workshops

If you're interested in the more traditional application of storytelling, our good friend Peter Christie will be running a series of workshops on how you can harness your own storytelling ability. The two workshops are entitled: The North, South, East and West of Storytelling in Organisations (11th to 14th October) AND Life Storytelling in Organisations (14th to 17th October). They'll be run in the Maluti Mountains in the Free State. Contact Peter at if you're interested.

In our mine safety research one of the key issues is determining the actual root causesof unsafe behavior.  These are usually deeply rooted in entrenched belief systems and metaphors. This story, that I found on Bob Sutton's blog, illustrates how determining what is actually driving behaviour (in this case workplace theft), can lead to astoundingly simple (and cheap) solutions.  In fact, as you'll see in the story, the more expensive solutions (installing cameras) made the situation worse ... "This 2001 study was done [...]

By |May 15th, 2009|Categories: Culture, Narrative|Tags: , |0 Comments

Valueless values

TGIF is an informal gathering of like-minded people who meets every Friday to discuss interesting topics.  The invitation they sent out this week really got me thinking.  Here it is (emphasis added)... Is it possible to "hold" values without owning them?  Ask 10 people in the street whether they think honesty (for example) is a great value, and 9.5 of them will say yes. Ask the same 10 people whether they are always honest, and there will be fewer affirmations - [...]

Sacred stories

We are in the process of planning a couple of exciting projects, one in the world of sport and another in schools.  Both of these involve the capturing of stories to assess culture or to "find the magic" in these environments. During a planning discussion with Dave Snowden this morning, he mentioned the concept of "Sacred Stories", those stories that define the way that people or societies see the world.  This is an intriguing thought.  It got me thinking - what are [...]

By |September 15th, 2008|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Business Science killed the Narrative Star

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 [...]

The Smoker’s Balcony

I'm not sure precisely what make this organizational phenomenon work, but I have a fairly good guess. I am talking about the Smoker's Balcony. Notice how I have even capitalized the phrase - this is not simply part of the building designated for those who use nicotine products. It is far more than that. The thing I find interesting about this particular place, is not the noise, or the fresh(!) air, or the heat, or the chance to get away [...]

Culture in Stories

I heard today of a large South African corporate that underwent a transformation. At a certain point in its history a new top-dog was appointed, and he decided, as the top-dogs are wont to do, to bark and bite most of the existing senior leaders out. This "old guard", also being well known in the organization as great tellers of stories (and in some cases, tall ones, but not the matter), duly left, tails between their legs. Not long after, [...]

By |February 11th, 2008|Categories: Culture, Narrative|Tags: , , |0 Comments

People leave leaders

"I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism." ~ Charles M. Schwab We often conduct narrative based culture audits in organisations, and more often than not, one of the key patterns we find is negativity around leaders who don't acknowledge the effort of their employees. In South Africa, where skills shortages and high staff turnover create headaches [...]

Dynamic Culture Audits

Here's my argument: we need to move from methods of measuring organisation culture that are static, towards methods that allow for dynamic assessment. This argument comes out of experiences where static approaches have failed to provide relevant information during the life-cycle of a change management project. When embarking on an organisatinal intervention project, one can normally anticipate the inclusion of a "discovery" phase as the first of the project. This is where an "as-is" assessment/audit of ­the context in which [...]