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.
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.