The value of storytelling
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Briefing Note 1The value ofstorytelling“Stories are fundamental to the waywe learn and to the way wecommunicate. They are the mostefficient way of storing, retrieving,and conveying information. Becausehearing a story requires activeparticipation by the listener, storiesare the most profoundly social formof human interaction andcommunication.”Terrence L. Cargiulo,Organisational Developmentconsultant.What this isHave you ever noticed how theatmosphere in a room changes assomeone embarks on a story that clearlymeans something to them? The peoplelistening relax and engage. The personspeaking becomes fluent and animated.In this briefing note hear about the valueof storytelling as a tool for embedding thedistinctive identity or strategic directionof your institution.Why it's usefulEveryone has stories about theirinstitution. Some illustrate the things thatirritate us about the place we work orstudy – and perhaps these are the onesthat get noticed the most. But there aremany other stories that could be toldabout the things that we love about ourworking life, and about the things thathappen that remind us why we do the jobwe do.People love stories. A story sticks in themind more easily than facts and figures.What better way to communicate to anyaudience what it is about your institutionthat makes it special?What you need to knowWe all know someone who is really goodat telling jokes – they use the right words(not too many, not too few) – and theyhave a sense of timing which gives thestory a rhythm and draws you to thepunchline. But if the story is somethingthat happened to you, or one which youheard about and touched you, then thechances are your own conviction willmake you a good storyteller, too.This enables you to engage your audienceand, hopefully, convince them of yourbeliefs. When, for example, your aim is toembed the distinctive identity or strategicdirection of your institution, storytellingcan be the perfect tool.One of the main differences between agood stand-up comedian and you and meis that the stand-up notices the thingsthat go on and makes a note of them touse later. But that is something anyonecan do, if they learn how to do it.Making it work for you• Take a few moments to think ofsomething that has happened toyou or to someone you workwith, that reminded you whyyou’re here (in this particular job,in this particular institution).• Without being too mechanisticabout it, try to understand why itresonates with you: What are thekey points - about the peopleCreated on: 20 June, 2011

Briefing Note 2involved, about the circumstances– and what is incidental? What isthe emotional content – how didthe people in the story react tothe situation? This gives colour tothe mental picture you arecreating.• These are the things that youneed to relay to listeners, if youare going to evoke in them thesame response that the originalincident evoked in you. Thisapproach also allows you tocondense the story intosomething you can tell quickly ifyou only have a few moments torelay it.• Practice telling it. See how itsounds. See how other peoplereact to it.• Change it. You can tell the samestory in different ways, dependingon who you are telling it to, andthe circumstances in which youare telling it.• Gather more stories. Notice andtake note of things that happen inyour working life.When you want to explain to someonewhy your institution is the one to choose– to study at, to invest in, to work for, topartner with – a story can say it all.Where to find out morePapersThere are a huge range of academicpapers on storytelling in organisations.Here are just a few:• Bate, P. (2004) The role of storiesand storytelling in organizationalchange efforts: The anthropologyof an intervention within a UKhospital, Intervention Research 1(1) 27-42122-129• Mittins, M., Abratt, R., Christie,P.(2011) Storytelling inReputation Management: theCase of Nashua Mobile SouthAfrica, Management Decision 49(3)• Baker, W., Boyle, C. (2009) Thetimeless power of storytelling,Journal of Sponsorship 3 (1) 79-87• Boyce, M. E. (1996)Organizational story andstorytelling: a critical review,Journal of Organizational ChangeManagement 9 (5) 5-26Books• Made to Stick: why some ideassurvive and others die, Chip Heath& Dan Heath, Random House,2007• Switch: How to change thingswhen change is hard, Chip Heath& Dan Heath, Random House,2010• The leader's guide to storytelling:mastering the art and discipline ofbusiness narrative, StephenDenning Jossey-Bass, 2005Internet• is a free on-lineresource designed to helpgovernment managers cultivate amore effective and motivatedpublic sector workforce• Denning, S. (2004) Telling Tales,Harvard Business Review, 82 (5)Created on: 20 June, 2011

Briefing Note 3• ‘Get Storied’ is a consultancy thathas made a business out ofencouraging and teachingbusinesses how to usestorytelling. Read their businesscase for storytelling: authorRob Woods, Woods Training Ltd. Trainingand consultancy for fundraising expertise• Rob Woods, Woods, contributor to theCASE Online training (accessedJanuary 2011)• Tony Quinlan, Narrate, contributor to CASEEurope’s communicationsseminar: March 2011)In-house expertise• Consider who in your institutionmight have these skills. Forexample, a lecturer in journalism,creative writing or theatrestudies.Find out has a growingresource section.Get involvedIf you have a case study, report, orother resource you would like to sharewith colleagues in the sector we wouldlove to hear from you. Please contactus you would like to distribute thiscontent please contact the projectteam.© 2011 Distinct in Higher EducationCreated on: 20 June, 2011

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