Gemma absolutely loves the power of stories and their ability to convey messages that would be seen as didactic lecturing if spelt out formally.
Stories and parables abound in all of the well-known religions of this world for the very reason that they can impart truth and meaning to their followers. Stories are not limited to the world of religion, however. All good leaders know the merits of telling an authentic story in order to share knowledge, inspire, change behaviour and build a shared vision of the future. Some of the most successful businesses in the world use storytelling as a leadership tool and some of the world’s most successful people extoll the virtues of telling stories. Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson sums it up as “The art of storytelling can be used to drive change. Today, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you also have to be a storyteller.”
Steve Denning tells how a simple story about a health worker in a tiny town in Zambia helped the World Bank to reimagine itself as a knowledge-sharing organisation and not simply an international lender. He’s written and lectured extensively on the subject and you can watch a summary of his TED talk here.
I could write at length about what constitutes a good story but instead, I’ll simply leave you with one of my favourites and you can make your mind up for yourself. It’s from an unknown author but don’t let that put you off – I’ve taken a lot from this story, not just the summary at the end.
In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but no one did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one’s condition.
How does this story inspire you? #nationalstorytellingweek