Listening to a Story awakens our minds

    Using metaphor helps organisations to share knowledge, inspire, motivate and stimulate ideas for dealing with difficult issues. People have been using stories and anecdotes for centuries to engage people, transfer knowledge, win their approval and influence behaviour. Storytelling is a proven way of inspiring people to act. With the focus today on knowledge management and engaged employees, how can storytelling be useful to a business organisation? How can we utilise the power of a good story for effective organisational learning and development?

    Naturally, there are sceptics. Most doubters come from those driven by the culture of facts, of key performance indicators and productivity metrics that pervade many organisations. Of course, we all need numerical data because it is objective and impersonal, but it is often the story behind the numbers that is the inspiration for success. This analogy holds the secret of using stories for successful learning and development.

    Maggie Foster, founder of Meta-learning Solutions explains how telling an appropriate story helped spark thoughts among the managers and employees about a different kind of future for both the organisation and themselves as individuals.
    Just think if we were able to operate in this way, and get these kinds of benefits at that kind of speed! Wouldn’t that be exciting! What kind of organisation we could become!By stimulating the listeners to think actively about the implications, they can understand what it will be like to be doing things in a different way. When a story has impact, the listeners’ minds race ahead, to imagine the further implications of elaborating the same idea in other contexts, more intimately known to the listeners. In this way, through extrapolation from the narrative, the re-creation of the change idea is successfully brought to fruition, with the concept planted in listeners’ minds, not as a vague, abstract, inert thing, but an idea that is real, exciting – and alive.
    Often the changes needing implementation in large organisations are complicated, and have many dimensions and facets. Resistance is inevitable when a bold new change idea emerges. The dilemma for management in such situations is how to turn resistance into enthusiasm when even they only partially understand the idea themselves. Often the attempt to explain the idea can kill enthusiasm before it even begins implementation.

    How to use stories to engage and inspire


    It is not enough for leaders simply to tell a story, as a one-way sending of a message. Leaders need to be aware of the needs of their audience, set objectives to meet those needs and devise a strategy for how and when to introduce a story. It is also important to measure progress in terms of people’s improved understanding. Some words of caution: Avoid signposting the use of a story by the words: Let me tell you a story or In my day we used to.... These approaches end up with grimaces and groans and whisperings of discontent. Try not to tell a story if you are not confident to do so; and not expect everyone to draw the same conclusions about the meaning of the story, Also, only use a story if you feel it is more appropriate to use another communication medium for your message. Remember that a story is a combination of data and information transfer that can be translated into a language we know and understand.
    Hearing a story can get people listening, thinking, talking and acting differently. It is an abstract idea of life. Maggie Foster says: In a world where we spend too much time communicating by e-mail or texting each other, listening to a story can be a breath of fresh air. Are you interested in learning more about how storytelling for managers could benefit your organisation?
    There is no time like the present. Speak to Maggie Foster.

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