Monday, September 29, 2008

Narratives and Discussion

From discussing the advantages of a good narrative....

I had thoughts on this initially that were more my thoughts that had been hardened over the last two years after having read Steven Dennings Book; “The Leader’s guide to Storytelling”. My commentary was; “My personal take on the narrative is that it succeeds where facts and figures don't. Typically people resort to the tried and proven when sharing and seeking results, knowledge, information etc. When managers need to persuade an audience, most try to build a case with facts, statistics, and some quotes from authorities. Sometimes this is accompanied by a 30 slide power point deck. As human beings, we make sense of our experiences through stories. But becoming a good storyteller is hard. It requires imagination and an understanding of what makes a story worth telling. All great stories deal with the conflict between subjective expectations and an uncooperative objective reality. (See

Is it a fad? Hell no. But more objectively is the thought that in order to understand the value in the narrative, one should be focused on an outcome, even if it is only ensuring the focus of a team or person. The teller of the narrative needs to know why they are telling and what they are targeting out of it.

Others had thoughts that ranged from Storytelling reaching out to Gen Y workers, to the narrative being part of the social and cultural framework of our lives and therefore it was a very natural thing. They also felt that the narrative constructed itself in ways, many other forms of communication or process could not. They genuinely felt that there was not only a time honored tradition to entertain the narrative, but it was something that without reflection and continuous use, might make the workplace a worse place.

I think there was a corum that genuinely felt that business narrative was not a fad and conversely, it was the view of the group that it took a long time to truly master the skill of the business narrative and therefore there was little chance of it becoming a fad as most fads can be developed overnight and have a very short time to run their course.

The difference between these was left inconclusive to me. It would appear that many perspectives focus on one being a derivative of the other and that they each serve common and different purposes. I think I am comfortable with this.

However having read other contributions these got me thinking as to whether there was a better way to describe what people wanted to say. For instance I thought the word “account” would be applicable. If I recalled an “account” of what someone had done to benefit an organisation then I was engaging in a narrative that conveyed the “account’ and usually where the narrative extends to; the outcome. It is hearing the outcome of the account that allows an individual to make sense of what that narrative or story meant to them.

I would think that after this, individuals will form or construct anecdotes on the basis of what makes sense to them and also in what form, or for what purpose, they will use them in the future.

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