I spent a brilliant time with a group of corporate leaders in the Autumn. Having organised a pitching competition, they wanted a little storytelling help, so I came in to enjoy their company.
Now I must tell you, this was a very analytic division of quite an analytic company. Being much more at ease in the creative business environment, I work with people who like to ping ideas from obscure places, spin them round a planet, occasionally bringing them back to Earth. This is not always practical, but it days make for a very good time. However, it can make bridging the gap between thinking styles difficult. This is a problem not individual to me, but shared by anyone working creatively in environments that require sharp rational analysers.
What to expect at the Media Trust story training for non-profits on 4 December – to which you can sign up here.
It’s rare now to see non-profit organisations talking only about themselves. Instead they are becoming very good at telling the stories of other people: the ones that speak for themselves about the good work we do. In this way, the third sector is blazing a trail for other sectors to follow. It has, after all, a lot of outstanding stories to tell.
I’ve been watching the Scottish independence referendum with interest, as you’d expect of an Englishman that lived in Edinburgh for five years. While I do hope the Scots flip the switch on the UK in 9 days and vote ‘Yes’, that is not what is interesting me particularly. As a storyteller, I want to zero in on a particular event that happened today that I thought revealed an interesting truth about storytelling: that the more you have a stake in what you are talking about, the more you are committed, the greater your credibility.
Positive News has recently published Simon’s ideas on storytelling, and how they can be applied to social change.
In it we find:-
- how knowing and sharing value can help overcome apparent community boundaries
- how visions that embody value are laying the ground for deep change
- how storytellers draw attention by being ready to share something uncomfortably close
Check it out and let us know what you think!
Simon with 60-day challenge entrepreneurs at Impact Hub Amsterdam
The Impact Hub has been running its 60-Day challenge for the last 5 years. For the last three, we’ve been invited to deliver a workshop which focuses the entrepreneurs on their story.
The course contains entrepreneurs making great changes in business: to how people are managed in organisations, clothes sourced and produced, care provided to the elderly and how communities organise in cities.
Presentations can be long and difficult. I’m sure you have been in situations where a presenter has a lot of information to share, is slightly embarrassed about how much and knows the audience is losing interest. Sometimes they whither and trail on in finer and finer detail, taking refuge in models and things-that-have-been-thought-through-by those-cleverer-than-I.
A storyteller holds attention because what they say is true
As both a speaker and listener in such a situation, I would like to think we can do better. We trust ourselves to borrow others’ research, but not to share our own insights because they have not been objectively proven. We feel our perspective is not legitimate because it is not been born out of years of objective research. Better to model and muddle, be safe while confusing eachother.
When someone does speak from their own perspective, dares to inject a sense of value into the discussion, it can be breathtaking. We feel we are being communicated to. Someone has slipped the cloak and started talking to us as human. It is risky because our opinions – the real, important ones – are often things we care about. Sharing them means they could get trashed or broken.
A storyteller is someone who is prepared to stand as they are – and as they are not. Storytelling is not accumulated structure of narrative, the ability to make playful digressions, or skilful use of metaphor. A storyteller holds attention because what they say is true. They are not ‘moving the room from A to B’*. They are speaking to its audience as people. They are honouring a moment shared between beings. A whole wealth of research, models and logic can flood in, but it all serves the real communication (deriv. Latin ‘to share’). In that field, any storyteller will gain a listening audience. Because a storyteller does not treat the privilege of communication amongst people lightly.
* I was recently instructed to do this in a speaker’s workshop – I am still baffled.
It came as a nice surprise to hear news that Google’s new penguin algorithm was a further step to supporting content quality. For a business that always advises content quality over noise creation, it seemed that the strategy of both Google’s and ourselves are quite in line.
Elevating our quality of language has the potential to transform businesses and community through expecting greater responsibility from the listener. An article published for Conscious Connection Magazine.
One of the gifts of social media has been its ability to pull out of us an immediate spontaneity. Those who succeed on social media are alive to what they experience and pull a creativity out of themselves that is restricted by strategy or being too carefully thought through.
Everyone likes a story, but what does it take to make one effective?
On Sunday I was asked by social media platforms Peerby and Konnektid to ‘do some storytelling’ at their global sharing picnic. The open brief got me thinking up some mischief – how to get a large bunch of people, thinking and moving together?
I have the good fortune to work with a number of clients engaged in social and sustainable business. These progressive types have a constant desire to reimagine and reinvent the edge of what is known and what is possible. There is a consistent will to find the edge of our own ignorance and push that back just a small bit further, and occasionally flip it into the 45th dimension.
If you push the edge, you push the systems and processes that follow. Quality of thought brings quality of practice. All of us live in a better tomorrow.