Innumerable admirable professionals make a living from telling stories: from journalists to actors, and passing through any artist (writers, painters, musicians, etc.). Film and theater are no more than a series of intelligently constructed stories, the newspaper and television news tell stories; books, songs, projects, jokes, or soccer matches are stories. And, certainly, when you have a problem and you ask for help at work, you usually do so by telling a story.
Stories are an extremely powerful way to learn, but they are systematically ignored as a tool for learning and communication in organizational environments. People communicate using language, and the most common way in which they do this is through stories. And organization is a permanent conversation; i.e., a continuous exchange of stories. What is interesting is knowing the stories that are told at your organization and those that need to hear them at the right time. There is no better way to understand an organization than by listening to the stories being told.
Stories and the ability to tell them have played a decisive role in the transmission of culture and the sharing of wisdom for generations. Of course, to tell a story well, you must first have experienced it. I have no doubt at all that the ability to tell stories is today one of the most important skills required by anyone that needs to relate to others, empathize and lead. Most executives agree that one of their greatest concerns is people’s lack of alignment with the company’s strategies, and that one of the executive’s most important roles is to encourage people to reach their objectives. If we really want to change the DNA of current organizations and light the way for a new type of knowledge and collaboration-based company, we need a different type of leadership, and there is mounting evidence that stories are a very powerful tool for these leaders. Stories are undoubtedly the best way to persuade, inspire, influence and encourage people to act. It is no coincidence that when dictatorships are installed, the tellers of stories (poets, writers and other artists) tend to be the first to be silenced.
Part 3 of 4.
Javier Martínez Aldanondo
Manager for Catenaria Knowledge Management