Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Power of Story Telling

“A key – perhaps the key – to leadership is the effective communication of a story.”

Howard Gardner
Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership

I have sometimes been glued to a story told by someone – my concentration has been total.

In more reflective moments I think about the process I have been through. How is it that:

  • I remember the story almost word for word - without rehearsing?
  • I create pictures in my head from a story?
  • I can relate the story to another context and use it to transmit a message?

I am not suggesting everyone learns through stories, or that stories are the best, or only way of learning.

Stories are simply one of many methods of teaching and learning - but it is interesting to muse that before the written word was invented, all information was passed on orally. Arguably, the oldest skill in the communications book of tricks is the spoken word.

With the words we speak there is no electronic spell check or grammar check. When we are talking we don’t think about left or right justified so maybe we are more ‘on the spot’ with our spoken word.

Little wonder many like to think carefully before opening their mouth to speak – little wonder equally, that many regret speaking without thinking first.

The power of the spoken word is immense.

Some have the ability to deliver the story in such a compelling way that we never forget it. I cannot recall a page of A4 text from my Physics lessons at school - but I can probably recall almost word for word, some of the stories I have been told – twenty or thirty years ago.

In the world of organisations, management and leadership I believe we are beginning to appreciate the value of story telling.


Anonymous said...

Your So correct on this..

I remember practially word for word my Mom telling us the LOTR story when our cousins from brighton stayed with us during one summer.. Dah... it was like summer of '78!!

The pictures in my head are not what I saw in the trilogy movie.. but whats strikes me-- is that the picture I have still in my head are not those which I saw in the movies.. its still the same that I imaigned with the power of story telling !!

I for one apprecaite story telling.. I wish this was the way of the world in the corporate much calmer and gentle will be the world eh ??


dylann said...

i love Love LOVE stories! writers are the best liars, and liars make the best story-tellers. as long as it's a great story, i'll sit and listen.

there's a kind of mental, and certainly PHYSICAL, stimulation associated with story-telling. and that combination can be quite powerful if one manages to find the perfect balance between the two -- as you, Trevor, seem to have mastered.. *smile* .. i love your blog.

"tell me a story, even if it's a lie" - sandra cisneros, caramelothey're the best kinds of stories out there, baby!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks pd and Dylann - great feedback.

I spent 35 years in healthcare management until November 2004.

In healthcare the patient story telling movement is growing - certainly here in the UK - I am passionate about patient story telling.

In my experience it is wonderful for me to go to the patients and their families and just listen to their stories - it was by far the most powerful way of learning I experienced of all my learning processes.

All the courses I ever went on were enriched when patients told their stories as part of the course.

We have to learn from this and use stories more from our customers to influence the future direction of our orgnanisations.

Keep rattling the cage - thanks both of you for your continued support.