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The ancient art of storytelling transforming business today

The ancient art of storytelling transforming business today

Sep 2017

Week 10 of our trip found us in the Top End experiencing the amazing Kakadu National Park.  The almost untouched remoteness of this area has resulted in an incredibly dense collection of Aboriginal cultural sights including caves and paintings.  We took a number of tours where the rangers described that the Aborigines hold their land so sacred because it contained stories.  Each story is located in a specific feature of the land and connects them with their whole history.  Their society values are passed down and re-enforced not by school or books but by their stories.  It reminds me that for thousands of years stories (mostly verbal) were the medium by which our history, culture and ‘truth’ was passed to us.

In more recent years with the influence of formalised tertiary education, critical and scientific thinking and the information revolution many of us have lost the value of a story.  We have been more focused on gaining the objective facts, communicating detailed information without bias, believing that education of ‘truth’ was communication of testable fact, all whilst remaining politically correct.

In our current culture we are seeing a return to the desire to have information shared as a story. Facebook demonstrates the massive attraction of people exposing personal (often very biased) information.  We know that statistics on children dying overseas does not touch us nearly as much as the story of a young boy taken off the streets in Cambodia to be housed and given hope in a training centre.

A leader can use stories to provide information, communicate culture and demonstrate values.  Powerful stories translate this information simultaneously and unconsciously.  When we can relate stories to our own experiences we find that the information converts into practice.  This is dangerous to the scientific world because it cannot be controlled.  It is subject to individual bias and interpretation yet the marketing world embrace this risk because it works every time.

For me the ancient art of good storytelling needs 4 key elements:

  1. Have a clear context.

  2. Movement (from one point to another).

  3. Something to link or relate it to some part of my own experience.

  4. A lesson that reinforces my view of the world or shifts it slightly to a place that resonates with my ‘truth’.

On my return to work I have been amazed at my organisation’s appetite for my new found storytelling.  I have used the following story to discuss decision-making processes.

The next great wildlife experience was the Jumping Crocodiles Cruise on the Adelaide River. We chose a smaller boat (a large tinnie really) instead of the big tourist boat. Once seated with my 3 year old daughter and 5 year old son on my lap I was starting to regret the decision. Only a small rail less than 50 cm above the water line separated my ‘bite sized’ kids and the approaching 5m croc.

Once they started coming up to get food we were all in awe of their size and strength. Their jaws snapped with 3 tonne of pressure and sounded like a small gunshot.   We all decided: "no swimming anywhere near questionable water up here!".

So have a go and share insight via a story with someone at work.  Let the stories begin. 

At Joseph Consulting we work with leaders to discover their strengths, vision, culture and core values.  Please call Joseph Consulting if you would like to learn how these elements can become part of your unique leadership story.

 

Rod Ellem

 

Rod Ellem is an Associate Director Physiotherapy with Queensland Health.  Recently Rod spent 6 months traveling around Australia with his young family (wife and 4 kids), leaving the pressures of Clinical and Leadership roles behind.  This opportunity has given him a chance to think clearly without all the ‘noise’ of life.  Each week of the trip he distilled his experience into one lesson that formed the basis of these blogs.  These lessons and insights can be applied to all areas of business/career/family.

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