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Transformation through stories

August 13, 2011

A professor walked into the lecture hall on the first day of class and proceeded to read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. The class was moved. Then, without pause, he read the same story but in a different voice, with different intonation and emphasis. It was a different story! This incident set Terrance Gargiulo on a career of using stories to help business people understand their world.

Stories are how we imagine who we are. In the surrond of story, we live in the question, not the answer.

Most of us think we know what stories are and how they work. We think it’s in the telling. What’s really going on is coding and decoding. The point of the story is what it elicits, not how it’s told.  A story can be a touchstone for framing complex situations.

Stories can enable 21C Leaders to enact attention rather than announce it. A manufacturing company was experiencing quality assurance problems. Customers were up in arms. Managers attended a luncheon meeting to go over the situation. Everyone made their meal selections. At Terrance’s suggestion, the boss pulled a fast one. People did not receive what they had ordered. You asked for iced tea; you receive a Coke. Frustration grew. People’s fuses were blowing. Then the boss called for Plan B. Waiters cleared the tables and delivered what people had ordered. The point was made.

Terrance applies a nine-stage framework to business stories:

You’ll note that telling — the oratorial aspect is but one of nine factors. Some of the others beg for explanation. Indexing deals with bringing in stories and concepts from other domains. Listening is mindful listening  Eliciting is finding triggers; ask people to look at a situation through characters from the Lord of the Rings and new interpretations emerge.

Stories help explain complex situations. They provide room for paradox. They provide a way to talk about solutions that have not yet unfolded.

Terrance online

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