Friday, January 22, 2010

What is it all about?

Basic rules of Business Narrative learned from the

Mutual responsibility in Oral Storytelling

These words are taken from / Learning Lab

When you listen to a story, you know that you´re having a constant influence on it. It may not be something you notice consciously, but just the feeling of eye contact, the direct and clear communication between two people is enough for you as listener to feel that you are important in determining the direction the story will take.

Each of the people listening to a story affects how the story develops.

It is a strong feeling to transform into the real world: You helped shape the story - now go out and shape reality.

You have to experience it to understand it completely, how the almost hypnotic state a story can put a person in can stimulate action.

Dario Fo, from Italy, the winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Literature and a wonderful storyteller: “The audience has always been my litmus paper, every second. Are you able to listen to them, does the audience conduct you like a conductor of a major orchestra?”

King and servant

As a storyteller, you interact with your audience.

You swift between the most powerful King (K) and the most humble Servant (S).

S: Before you start telling your story you have to consider: Are the listeners comfortable?

K: Your beginning is crucial. Go straight to the story.

S: In the silence you invite us into the world of your story.

K + S: Tell us your story both as a king and as the most humble servant.

It is a complementary movement between opposites.

K: When you finish your story, you are the king again. Did the story inspire action?

The key word is interaction.

Interacting means a different approach to a lot of things in your daily life, not just concerning


If you interact in your organization it means that

your company enters into an ethical, social and environmental interaction with the society of which it is a part

your company is in dialogue with your costumers and consumers

your company is open about new products before the new products are released

your leader offers concrete stories showing future opportunities and starts behaving according to these

you and your colleagues must act in accordance with the values that are accepted in the company

The organizational tree

There are basically four kinds of stories you tell in your organization

Metaphors – to make a clearer over all picture - the tree is a metaphor.

Sometimes a simple metaphor can make the most complicated situation easy to understand.

Future stories – to spark action and create a common goal - the canopy and the fruits on the tree:

Visions of what the immediate and long-term future will bring to the organization.

The Springboard Stories are told in a minimalistic way.

We stories - hto create delightment and pride - the trunk of the tree:

Stories that create identity. Values become alive in these stories.

Pattern of these stories:

Home – challenge – new home

I - stories - for a manager the I-stories create trust, for the employees telling I-stories means that somebody sees you – the roots of the tree:

Every person in the organization is important and every voice should be heard. Some of

these stories should stay hidden under the surface.

Often with details and some senses activated.

When you as a manager prepare a presentation for a group of employees, think of these three elements, connected to the I -, We – and Future - stories:

Have you created trust by telling a personal story? Nobody wants to be lead by 'another


Is there a element in your talk that involves a 'We'? Can you tell what the group have

done in a positive way? If not, can you use a negative story to establish a desire for


The last part of your presentation is crucial to the outcome of your encounter with your

audience – do you leave them with hope? Is the vision understandable for the group? Is

it desirable?


A vision for the organization in the future is that its members are independent individuals able

to make complex and far-reaching decisions. Networks form, bloom and are transformed into

new networks. One of the prerequisites for a lively and chaotic system such as this being able

to function is knowledge about and actual experience with stories that are told.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Svend-Erik Engh and Thaler Pekar at The Smithsonian institute

Workshop on Organizational Storytelling at The Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.

Thurs., April 15, 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Storytelling has become an essential skills for managers and organizational leaders because it aids in establishing trust, articulating values, sparking innovation, inspiring action, sharing knowledge, building community, and generating followers and new leaders in organizations. Many leaders, however, have no background in storytelling and are confounded by how and when to share stories. In this seminar two individuals who have worked extensively in the field of organizational storytelling teach participants the basics, including the elements of an organizational story, when and how stories can be most effectively used in organizations, how stories told within an organization differ from stories told outside an organization, and how a story should be crafted to achieve specific goals and objectives.

The seminar is led by Thaler Pekar, founder and principal of Thaler Pekar & Partners, a consulting firm specializing in persuasive communications, and Svend-Eric Engh, author of Tell a Story: Be Heard, Be Understood, Get Action (Fokus).


Monday, January 11, 2010


Some interesting points on the difference between storytelling (from top to bottom, predictable) and storysharing (in all levels, chaotic)-

Friday, January 08, 2010

What is the outcome of Narrative?

A very good friend of mine is the CEO of a little Green Tech Company in Hoersholm, Denmark. He overheard a conversation between me and a woman, that I don´t know so well. The topic of our conversation was my work with Business Narrative. And she asked me, what´s "in it for the organization"? I thought I gave her a very good explanation. But afterwards in the car my friend told me, that he was confused, because it wasn´t clear for him what benefits the company gained from my work.

We agreed on two things:
1. The people working in the company finds stories, that they can use in encounters with costumers and other stakeholders.
2. I give them techniques to become better in presenting the company and the values it represents.

It was great to hear my friend coaching me!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Who can tell stories?

I was asked by a norwegian reporter for the NRK, Saanerlivet, 19. sep. 2009, who can tell a story. And off course I gave the 100 $ answer: Everybody.
Later I say something a little bit more intelligent.
I say that the people who knows the answers, the people that are sure about things and the too self confident people are not likely to be good storytellers.
Contrary to this is the people who comes up to me and say that they will never learn how to tell stories - then I know I can work, I can find the the diamonds hidden.

Listen to the whole radio program (in norwegian and danish) here

How to prepare

I talked to one of my colleagues from USA and she is going to present Organizational Storytelling for a group of CEO´s on saturday. She told me about the importance of these people and how they all have a MBA.
I asked her to give them names, instead of the CEO of Boeing, Macdonald and other major company I asked her to call them Peter, Laurie, Margaret etc. My colleague laughed and that is a good sign. After a while I could hear in her voice that she was preparing for interaction between equals.
When you tell stories, you need to tune in to your audience.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


How do you tell a story, so everybody listen? I am listening to Mahatma Gandhi at Youtube and thinking about the words of Steve Denning from his latest book "The Secret Language of Leadership", where he states that Charisma is not just something that happens from one person to the people (the Charismatic person is filled with Charisma and the people are just waiting for the Charisma to be spread). In contrary Charisma is given to the person from the people, so it is an interaction between the person and the people, that creates the Charismatic person.

Monday, January 04, 2010

I -, We - and Future Stories

Every leader needs four kind of stories.

The Personal stories to create trust
The We stories to share delight
The Future stories to get a direction of the work
(these three kind of stories are descriptions from the reality!)

The metaphors for given a wider perspective
(these kind of stories is often fiction!)

Do you have any experiences with one of these stories?

Morning Exercise

When I start a workshop, I often start with morning exercise.
In a circle, max. 250 people, needs an equal number.

1. 2 and 2. Tell about this morning.
2. Get feed back from listener.
a. Clarest Picture in story
b. Say something about the way the story was told.

You can extrapolate the exercise, so you let participants turn around and then retell the story they just heard. Now with power, (some say lie, I never use that word!) and let the stories flow.
Same feed back + what was the story about?

End: Let the participants turn back to first partner and retell what they just heard, now like a tale. A king, a princess, a troll, a dragon - whatever make a good fairy tale.

I have used this exercise for years and it never fails.

Narrative in change leadership

When you as a leader want sustainable change, you need

- a personal story to gain trust
- a springboard story to make the change real for the audience
- to listen and spread the stories of the change already implemented in the organization

Artikel i - storytelling for en ny generation af ledere.