Learning through Stories
Photo: Learning through Stories
I think most of us like a good story. We grow up asking for stories to be read or told to us in the off times when the action of the moment or day has slowed down. We may think of them as kids’ stuff, just something to do when other things are not available. But in fact stories serve many purposes – they can introduce new information; they help us remember that information so we can learn new things; and they can help us build a case for something we want to change.
The art of storytelling, perhaps a dying art in this digital age or maybe just a reconfigured art, is particularly important when we want to introduce change. As a rule we don’t respond as quickly to fact as we do to something that appeals to our emotions. We know many things that are good for us or that we should do, but until we see the emotional connection we often don’t give it enough thought to actually do it.
In organizational life story telling is critical although not often recognized for what it really is, the necessary first step for any kind of change. To introduce something new or change some long held norm or belief it is important to build a compelling case. Storytelling allows us to build that case so the listener gets both the rational fact and the emotional connection.
Storytelling allows us to see the current and future state in a way that directly involves and impacts us. Telling a compelling story allows the listener to begin to see the ramifications of the current state and what the future holds given the current belief system and the particular circumstances. And, having this story told the likelihood of people believing and accepting the change is greater than if the change is presented as a series of facts and merely implements. Stories give people the opportunity to see possibilities beyond the facts. And it is possible that even better solutions will emerge as a result of the stories being retold and re-imagined.
Storytelling alone, without the factual data to trigger or support the change, is just a story. But organizational stories grounded in the fact of current circumstances, are powerful first steps in the change process.