Telling stories

The #responsiveorg unconference storytelling session taught us that volume and distribution are our most powerful tools for change

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have to inspire people to action. With that in mind, one of the sessions at the Responsive Organization London unconference was “What is the #responsiveorg through stories”.

The discussion was a productive one and centred around the following themes:

  • Stories set the bar of what’s possible and can help people understand what they could achieve. In a corporate context, most people are looking for stories of where things have been done differently before so they can help convince their leadership that things aren’t as risky as they first appear.
  • Stories can be very valuable for what #responsiveorg is trying to achieve, because the themes are very broad and risk being abstract unless you ground them in specific examples.
  • The ‘story round’ we held showed a huge range of examples of where organizations are being more responsive. Everywhere from financial services, to housing associations, kitchenware makers, aviation, fashion, non-profits and the military came up. There are also several books (Reinventing Organizations and Culture Shock, for example) where some of these stories have already been consolidated.
  • No one organization appears to be operating in a way that is fully ‘responsive’ but a very large number have made one or more of the shifts. That’s OK, and it’s also OK to be a little flexible in the definition of what ‘responsive’ means as long as we don’t end up with it becoming too unclear. The shifts can help with the definition in case of doubt.
  • Everyone learned a new story. This shows there’s a great opportunity to help all the Responsive Organization network learn all the great stories that are out there as we all hold pieces of the puzzle.
  • There are many untold stories. We discussed ways of being able to elicit these, from offering training on storytelling to the Responsive Organization community, to curating existing stories, to providing private ‘confession’ sessions to organizations that want to tell their stories privately
  • Stories can unlock opportunities, so there’s potential for the right story to move forwards someone in the movement that is stuck. “Story clinics” might work as a way of helping these people, offering up examples of how their challenges have been resolved by others

From this, I think there are a few easy things we can all do. If you’re interested in helping, or know a good method for doing it, let me know:

  • Share the stories we know so they can be curated and curate the stories that are out there already
  • Teach storytelling to the movement’s members so that more stories are elicited. It might be that someone already has this skill within the network