inspiration

Help employees tell their stories with simple tools

The Universe is made of stories, not of

Crowdsourcing is a growing feature of organisational communication; but it is not entirely new. In near-bygone times of the employee newsletter, stories sourced from the frontline were a staple form of content. People like to hear what people like them have done. In particular, people like to hear how people like them have solved a problem, achieved a goal or overcome a challenge. These stories are the lifeblood of organisational life.

As digital communication expands the ability to capture and share stories, it is important to give employees tools and resources to help make their sharing effective. In particular, understanding the basic nuts and bolts of what makes a story a story is a useful reminder.

The four Ps – people, place, plot and purpose

This short video from the clever folk at StillMotion provides a beautifully simple model for helping people shape their information in a way that tells a story.

 

Once…then…then…

There are many tools that help people listen for, capture and shape stories. Various sentence structures provide ways of outlining the context, the characters and the challenge. Perhaps the simplest of these is the Pixar model (adapted from a range of sources)

Once there was a ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

There is always more than one perspective

Organisations are microcosms of the rest of the world. In the world there are millions of stories that overlap, different experiences of the same event. Any story-work within organisations or communities needs to recognise this diversity of experience.  This TED talk from novelist Chimamanda Adichie is a compelling example of how multiple stories shape our existence.

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word,that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.
– Chimamanda Adichie

The idea of managing multiple stories in the organisation is at the heart of my work on ‘strategic story worlds

Keep it human

There is an abundance of material on storytelling available on the web. It is important to come back to the basics before embarking on any formal storytelling activities.

We are human, we are already hardwired to use story as our means of making sense of the world. By being conscious of this as a start point, it is possible to ensure ‘storytelling’ in organisations is not a trend or just a process to be followed to get people ‘on the same page’ but is instead a fundamental part of the sense-making capability of an organisation and its people.

Holiday Bonus, Introducing The Eleven Things

The Eleven ThingsSometimes a top ten is just not quite enough. In 2011, Meaning Business will be launching a new sister site, The Eleven Things.

The Eleven Things will publish collections of useful resources around the themes of communication, leadership, creativity, innovation, performance, culture, technology, story, mind, community and science.

As a preview, and following on from the last post about the ‘blue sky thinking’ that can happen on holiday, here is a preview.

The Eleven Things Holiday Edition

The Eleven Things Holiday Edition

The Eleven Things Holiday Edition (Low Res)

Meaning Business will be back in 2011.

Books every communicator should read

Some industries have a few key texts which were crucial to the development of the profession. Over at the IABC LinkedIn group discussion board, one of the hottest topics currently is a ‘required reading list’ for an Internal Communication Library. Kicked off by Betsy Pasley, ABC, there have been dozens of contributions and over 100 books suggested.

I won’t hijack Betsy’s list here. If you are a LinkedIn user and a member of IABC, I recommend checking out the full discussion.

With inclusion based on the number of post-it notes, dog-eared pages, highlighted passages, and sections I have recommended to others, I submitted a few of my favourites. Applying the “burning bookshelf” test (in which you can take five and only five) I include:

Anything from Roger D’Aprix
All of D’Aprix’s work is really helpful. His chapter fron the IABC Handbook ‘Throwing rocks at the corporate rhinoceros’ should be essential C-Suite pre-reading ahead of their next strategic retreat (or better still, gift them a copy of ‘The Credible Company’) , and Communicating for Change, connecting the workplace with the marketplace 1996, Jossey Bass is still the communication book that influenced my practice the most.

The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication, 2006, Jossey Bass
As a comprehensive survey of current issues in communication practice (without being faddish), essential.

Whatever you think, think the opposite by (the late) Paul Arden, Phaidon is wonderful fuel for looking at things from another perspective.

Communicating Change, Bill Quirke,  McGraw Hill
This is the source of some of the most sensible, practical and applicable communication advice that speaks to the business as much as to the communicator. Also interesting is the degree to which the central challenges of strategic communication laid out by Bill 15 years ago remain current topics of some debate in our industry today.

Well. That’s five. Did I not mention the rules? It’s only five per post. To be continued…