Event Date: 04/15/2015 (2:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT)
SARAH SHAFER: Unleashing Communication: Story-based Strategies and Tools, hosted by HRDQU, and presented by Terrence Gargiulo. Today’s webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions you can always type them into the question box. We will be answering questions as they come in live at the end of the presentation or as a follow-up by email. My name is Sarah Shafer and I will moderate today’s webinar.
Terrence works as an internationally recognized organizational development consultant which earned him the 2008 HR Leadership Award from the Asia Pacific HRM Congress for his groundbreaking research on story-based communication skills. He is the author of eight books and along with his sister founded the Opiata Foundation, which brings art engagement to schools through the multi-disciplinary prism of opera.
Welcome and thank you for joining us today.
TERRENCE: Super. Sarah thanks so much for the invitation and a huge shout out to HRDQ for sponsoring these and bringing us all together as a community. I asked at the beginning of the webinar where some folks are from and I do hope I can send some sunshine and some warmth. I’m sitting today in Monterey, Calif., and you’re looking at a picture of our gorgeous coastline. And once a year, for any of you who have ever traveled to Monterey, and I’m sure we’ve got folks out there, that have. We have this ice plant which is not indigenous to the coastline of Monterey, and it flowers across and creates this purple carpet. And this morning I asked my daughter if she wouldn’t mind if I would share a picture of her from about two years ago. That’s Sophia Rose Gargiulo, my daughter, and that’s our beautiful coastline and it looks. But thank you to those who are dialing in from St. Louis and Kentucky and Albany and all kinds of different places, Sacremento, Calif., Honolulu just came in, so really it’s great to be together.
What I’d like to do is share with you an area of great passion for me, and I imagine it’s something that’s near and dear to all of our hearts and that’s how we can leverage stories as an effective means of communication. I think all of us all know about the Hollywood stories. We all know about how it’s more interesting to tell stories so I’m hoping to get at some nuances and hoping to explore some of the ways in which in any form of training you can facilitate reflective conversations. And in particular about 14 slides into the presentation after a little preamble and some set up, we’re going to look at a tool, a very simple tool for on ways of triggering and eliciting stories that then also can be used for the conversations that take place in our trainings. I’ve got some case studies to share about that. And, oh my gosh, I just saw someone from Brazil, awesome. Sorry, I just had to call that out. So we’ll look at a case study and also try to look across a spectrum of learning because I realize probably on the phone maybe we have some people who do leadership development, maybe we have people who do compliance training. Maybe we have people who don’t do training at all, but are more interested in organizational uses of informal learning that occurs in different times and places in organizations. So I really hope to get your voices in at looking at that and we’ll wrap up then just by looking at some strategies for how you can go about starting to put this in place. So again bear with me, maybe about seven or eight slides here and there will be some opportunities in those first seven or eight slides to get your feedback and ideas. But, just some set up here: If a picture is worth a thousand words, and I want everyone there in the silence of their own office or their space that they’re receiving this webinar, to complete that. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, what’s a story? A story’s worth a thousand pictures, right? So we use stories as more compelling and rich ways, not just for encoding our messages, but really about making sense of the world. I think one of the most important things that we ever do in a learning environment is help people make sense of new information and attach that to their existing set of experiences, their existing set of knowledge. So being able to tap into people’s stories is fundamental really to how people learn, how people communicate, and it’s something that we want to be really thoughtful and mindful about in how we design and do our stuff.
I have a quick little poll here that I want to launch. Just very quickly, just give me a sense, those who are out there, how many of you right now in any way fashion or another actively use stories in either the design or delivery of your interventions? Sarah, I’m just curious. Do have any prediction of what to expect these numbers to come out? She didn’t know I was going to call on her. She said she expects roughly maybe about 40 percent of folks to sort of maybe occasionally use them.
Let me share this poll. That was a pretty accurate prediction, Sarah. It looks like people are using stories and maybe close to 50 percent of the time. So, that’s great. There are some of you out there using it extensively, and I’m definitely interested in getting some of your thoughts and ideas. So, going back to our slides, I’d like to have you then share with us using the question box some of the ways in which you are currently using story telling in your learning initiative. So just type in, and I’m seeing already, and some of the answers coming in so far, consumer research learning, so that’s interesting. Carol had that to offer. That must be focus groups, Carol? Maybe you can send me something more about it. Role playing. Amy, I’d love to have you type in a little more detail about different ways in which you are using stories in role plays. Sharing stories and experiences, debriefing learning activity, someone uses scenarios in HR training. Customer service training, that must be really rich because you’re able to draw upon not just the representatives, but even stories of customers themselves. That must lead to innovation and changes. Taking risks and learning from failure, so that might be after action reviews when people are working on projects. Alice talks about the beginning of the class to set the problem for the content, the summary, the activity, to demonstrate. Sales training, field trips, leadership training, engagement, using real-life applications, making concepts live. Here’s wonderful one from Kevin who talks about patient-experience stories in the health-giver or caregiver environment and looking at how that can influence empathy training and compassion. And I think you’re hitting on something really important that goes beyond even those settings of the healthcare setting, Kevin. I think we’re talking about how stories really activate our imaginations because a little virtual reality simulators. Lots of super examples and I’ll get with Sarah afterwards. Maybe we can also send back a list to people of all of these. We’ve got more on role playing. Collect real stories and develop scripts for role playing. I love that. So you start by eliciting people’s experiences and then you construct those into role plays and into scripts that you can put into your trainings. Really, really good. Someone’s working with emotional intelligence and leadership. So, we’ve got tons of rich examples here of how stories really do play a role in our learning and it looks like some of you are doing some really fantastic stuff.
I was always enamored, I guess with IBM, and they always had these great graphics that had architecture. This is going back to the early days of client server when people were starting to use computers and whatnot. And I said to myself, you know what? I really think we need to have a learning architecture. So I kind of put this together and when I look and think about what we have as learning professionals, I feel really blessed. You know what, guys? We have so many tools, so many processes, so many rich ways that we can touch people in learning. And this sort of allows me to say that at a foundational level, once we get past the fact that we’ve got to start with subject matter, expertise, and then we apply our principals of solid instructional design and then of course we got the wonderful contributions made by graphic artists and those who can help us to visualize ideas and concepts and information. And then, right alongside of all of that is story-based design. So how we think about constructing the story of our training, how we think about how we’re going to create opportunities for reflective conversation. And really, some people might stop and say hey Terrence, that’s all fine and good if you’re talking about soft skills and leadership, but, you know I do compliance training, or I do technical training or I do process training, how or why would I even think about using any type of story design and how I put those together? And I would argue that really story-based design is prevalent in any type. And I think this slide for me does celebrate all of the different ways in which we are able to be effective as learning and development professionals. And I hope that you also feel as passionately as I do that stories are at the heart of that work.
Ending up here with a little bit of the setup material. The shortest distance between two people is a story. So, this gets us to the notion that stories are relational, stories are relational in terms of people, stories are relational in terms of how we connect to information. And what we’re doing is we’re putting people at the center of that and so stories really help to accelerate the connections that people are making between themselves. A really fun story here that I’ll share: It’s part of an organizational development intervention and this was with a company in the Detroit area and it was actually the merger between Michigan Gas and Detroit Edison. And we were working with the IT teams and the two teams of people on one side, it really was very diametrically opposed. One organization, and this was more of an acquisition more than a merger, so there was all of that tension around change and around us versus them. And one of the IT organizations was all open source. They used all open source technologies and the others were all using proprietary technologies, Microsoft, Oracle, whatever they happened to be. And the differences went on and on. Another one had different software development life cycles, and so there wasn’t a lot of trust between these groups. And there was a lot of jockeying for what was going to be the way in which things were going to be done. So we took these folks and we said we’re going to stick you in cars because one of the things that happens in the utility industry- we might have people on the phone who work in that industry- is that everything stops when there’s a snowstorm. And I’m sure a lot of you are laughing right now because you’ve lived through some really rough snowstorms this season, but everything stops. And people will go out into the field and actually guard wires that have gone down, so a live wire is very dangerous and people could get electrocuted and damaged by it. So, what we said is we’re going to put people from the two different organizations in the same car with one another because if you’re sitting out there, it’s freezing cold and you’re stuck with maybe a cup of coffee maybe a doughnut or something what are you going to do? If you’ve got to sit out there for 5-6 hours with someone you’re going to have to swap stories. So it accelerated the relationships, accelerated the trust. And I’ll come back to that example a little bit later.
The other good news is in the research that I’ve done, story skills are natural. I think we tend to think of storytellers as being the person who can stand up and wow us with a great story, the great orators, the Steve Jobs. And I don’t mean to in any way take away from that aspect of storytelling. It’s critical, and being able to stand up and being affective as a storyteller is important; however, we all are natural storytellers because it’s really how we communicate, learn, and think. And my research has demonstrated that there are nine basic skills which are characterized here. So storytelling is an innate capacity and it’s something that we all are able to do. And as such, we are able to help each other develop as effective storytellers. And I’ll talk a little bit more about that later.
The one little example that I want to give quickly there is everybody in your mind who has seen the movie, think about “Twelve Angry Men.” That’s the movie with Henry Fonda. It takes place in the summer, deep in the south. There’s no air conditioning, it’s humid, and it’s a murder trial. And the jurors go into the jury room. And 11 or so of the jurors, it looks like they’re all going to agree and very quickly. I can’t remember if the person’s guilty or innocent. I can’t remember which way the jury was swinging. And right at the very last moment Henry Fonda, who plays this very quiet character, just introduces almost in a whisper another perspective, a question, another piece of the story that maybe the jurors hadn’t yet considered. And suddenly, everything changes. So take that image. Alison just told me they all were voting guilty first, thanks Alison, she’s a good movie buff. What that image is also a really good image of understanding story tellers. Sometimes in a group, it’s the person who can tell a story really well or captivate us, it’s the person who shares maybe even in just a sentence or two, a piece of information. We’ve all experienced as facilitators how quickly the group dynamics can change. So, as designers and deliverers of training, stories are about breaking down that didactic mode of conversation. And it’s kind of ironic that here we are in a webinar where we’ve got 300-400 plus people on the webinar now and everyone’s voices are silent and you’re stuck with me just didactically yacking at you. But really what we care about most is those conversations and stories really help to bridge so that information just isn’t didactic. In any setting when we bring people together, we’ve got a wealth of experience. People are treasure chests of stories. And we store our experiences as stories. So if we’re not as learning professionals thinking and challenging ourselves to say how do we get a return on all of that experience in the room. Then we’re missing a huge opportunity to help people really make fundamental shifts in their behaviors or connecting more effectively with one another. So reflecting, helping people to both elicit and connect those stories allows them to take those experiences and build upon them and to transfer that knowledge to one another, which will indeed result of the possibilities of performance improvement.
So another opportunity to get you guys had so much to share on the first question. I have another one. When you are facilitating a group, what do you do to draw out stories from the group? How do you trigger them? How do you get stories going when you have group discussions? Right out of the bat, Amanda hits one straight to my heart. She says start with a story of your own. Similarly Alison some others say tell stories or ask questions. Tell about a time, super. Get personal stories. Compare experiences, excellent. Use direct questions. Can you collaborate on that for us all? Can you elaborate on that, very good. There are all good. Use a lot of open-ended questions. You’re so right, Amy. The types of questions we use is critical in terms of making people comfortable and allowing them to come forward. Someone says maybe use a best and worst experience. Paint a picture. Karen, that’s a great idea. We really need to use our words to create word pictures. Have people turn to the person next to them and swap stories. Praise participation. Use ice-breaking questions. Another person talks about Joseph Campbell’s Hero Cycle as a framework to help leaders learn from their experience. Excellent. The hero’s journey is a really important archetype in any story work. How about making it your own? Choosing your own ending, so you maybe start a story and you get people to participate in ending it. Sharing stories in pair. Layout of the room needs to be conducive. Compare two outcomes from two different stories offered by an audience. So, again lots of good ideas here and these are all things that do work well.
OK, so one tool that you can always use if you’re thinking about how you’re going to trigger stories is timelines. People tend to think about things or organize things in their minds in terms if timelines and an example might be if you were working with a group and you wanted to have them do an after action review so it’s been a two-year-long project and you’re bringing people together and you want to get those lessons learned then you could put up, maybe it’s the eight quarters of that project or maybe it’s month by month or maybe it was critical months where there were milestones and you could get people to try to remember key events and key things and then you could drill in from there and ask them follow up questions and get them to share. So timelines are really one good way. Many of you mentioned another way which is really important stories beget stories so here we have this image of the dominoes that are collapsing upon one another, and the fastest way to get people to tell stories, and many of you said this, is tell a story. Stories will beget stories.
So here also are three steps that you can also use for eliciting stories. And the first will link back to the example I gave of the two utility companies that merged together. And remember the story I told of them having to sit in the car together and suddenly they’ve got this opportunity where they’re going to have a shared experience. They’re actually going to have a bunch of joint stories because not they sat out there for five hours together and just like when you’re stuck on a plane, I’m sure some of you have experienced this. You’re stuck on a plane, you don’t even feel like talking to the person sitting next to you, but suddenly they say something about oh, my daughter is going to be in a symphony concert this afternoon, I’m really worried about getting back in time tonight in order to be able to see her. And suddenly the other person also has a child or has some connection to symphony orchestras or music and off the two of you go suddenly stories are flowing, so creating trust is really the first step for eliciting stories. And one of the ways we do that is by celebrating or by building history with others. Creating shared experiences.
The second way in which we do it I think is, and many of you mentioned these in the examples that you used, you said there’s got to be sort of an espirit de corps to the group dynamic. People have to feel comfortable. They have to feel invited. You have to thank people for their contributions. So instilling a climate of sharingness. And many of you also mentioned the importance of modeling first the sharing of stories, so if you’re sharing stories, then that’s going to open up the door for others to feel that, hey, the norms of this group are OK. People are sharing stories I guess it’s OK for me to do so. And I think it’s really hard for people to be vulnerable It’s hard for transparency and it’s hard sometimes for people because they’re not used to being vulnerable or being transparent to some degree and stories me us very vulnerable and transparent. They don’t know where the dividing lines are, how far they should go and what’s right. So how we model that and how we set up the group dynamics is really important.
The third area is, and again, many people called this out as well in their comments, the importance of our questions, the language that we use, how we phrase questions. I think it’s easy to forget that each of us index information in very different ways and I have a slide on this in just a moment. And so saying a question one way to one person will not elicit a story from every single person. For example, if I said what’s the most funny scene from a movie that you’ve ever seen? Or what’s your favorite funny scene from a movie? Some people will go snap right away, they’ll have a great example, they’ll have one on the tip of the tongue, others that qualifying word of most will make them go well, I don’t really have an index in my head of which one is the most.
I just want to call out a great comment from Kate, thanks so much. She said authenticity and respect are necessary to creating trust. I could not agree more. Thanks, Kate, for that comment.
So, these three areas: creating that trust, instilling a climate of sharing and adapting your language are what we need to do. And, by the way, sure we can put some guidelines in facilitator when we’re putting together our notes for other trainers who might be delivering the same learning, but these are very much interpersonal skills that we ourselves have to get comfortable with and be good at so that we can be good modelers.
OK, I’m ready now to share with you one of the tools I have found very useful, very simple, that I use with groups and it’s called a story collage. And I’ll preface it by saying I am a firm believer that stories in isolation are great. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a story is worth a thousand pictures. But this image of things being collaged together, mosaics, one of the other metaphors that we often use as storytellers are things being woven together like patchwork. Another wonderful metaphor a story about stories is the Stone Soup story, right? And all of those about stories in collections, stories that interrelate to one another, stories that are not maybe just by themselves, but really cast light on one another when they are shared in relationship to one another and connected to one another.
So sometimes there’s that great perfect story that has a classical beginning Aristilian beginning and end arc, a hero’s journey, the big stories that capture our attention, and we always want to look for those without a doubt. And there also stories that really form their power almost in clusters with one another and so that’s what we’re really going to talk about here now is a way of getting at that.
So everyone is familiar with brainstorming and we know that many people use different brainstorming or mind-mapping techniques as a way of uncovering ideas. So this in a sense is a simple tool, the story collage, for doing brainstorming with stories except it’s kind of nonlinear and it’s nonlinear because as you look at this simple diagram, by the way out on the HRDQ website, they’ve already put out in the blog area and maybe Sarah when she comes in at the end can give everybody a heads up, I think they’ve put out a white paper with detailed instructions about story collages and more information so you’ll have a chance to kind of dive into this. And there’s even some facilitator guides on how you can use this in the design and delivery of your learning program. So don’t worry about trying to get it all right now just in this webinar or just in the slides that I’m sharing. And we’ll probably also send a follow-up email with this information as well, so no worries. But anyway, non linear, I say that because it allows us to work in two directions at the same time. So in the middle of this picture where you see all those lines, are index, are where we write key words that we would use to index stories that are going to be related to the question that we ask a group. And the little bubbles around this diagram are where we write short descriptions of the stories themselves. So, you’re like, OK, Terrence, this is all a little abstract, I don’t quite get what you’re talking about here. So let’s look at this in detail. Let me first before I show you an example and then we talk about a case study, let me just go back and reinforce this idea of indexes. So in this diagram, we’re going to ask people to work in two directions at the same time. If I posed a question and said tell me about times when you were very effective as a manager or tell me times when as a leader you felt that you were not heard effectively, whatever the question might be. As someone reflects on that question, they can either in the middle start writing down key words. Well, gosh, I was angry, I was frustrated. Maybe there were writing down words that characterized emotions they were feeling, maybe they start remembering a situation and they write down a key word that connects to a situation. For example, they might write down New York, 2010, because when they were in New York in 2010 at a sales meeting they had an experience, so that would be an index, a key word, that is associated with a then story that they might talk about. So, I’ll come to a full example in a second.
But I want to come back to this idea that everyone has a unique ways that they classify information. And what we’re looking for is how to take those isolated data points and how to begin to connect those to actual experiences. And so this tool allows people to work in two directions at the same time. They can either start by remembering the sales being in New York and that experience that they had in 2010 at the sales conference or they start with key words that characterize that event, whichever way their mind works, but they’ll be able to work in both directions.
So, let’s look at the first part of this. When you use the story collage tool you’re going to start with an opening question to people such as the two examples I used. Tell be about a time as a leader you did not feel you effectively reached people in your organization. You frame it up with a question and going back to INAUDIBLE earlier, we know that we’re probably going to frame it up with several questions, right, not just one. So I might also have a question about as a leader, tell me about people and times where your communication fell flat, what happened? So I begin to try to frame multiple questions in multiple different ways to help different people to index it. These are offered here as examples of the types of language that leads to questions. We know closed-ended questions are ineffective. Many of you were really good in calling out the importance of open-ended questions and how we’ve created these questions. So framing out the question for the story collage. I’m going to share a little bit of a personal example. Here’s one. I was asked to write an essay. So this is not so much a learning example. This is showing how I use this a writer. And the question that was posed to me was tell about some times when you have experienced the power of the ocean. So I decided that I was going to do some brain storming about this using my story collage and this is what I came up with. Being a storyteller, I actually came up with a story first then I thought about the key words. So I reflected on an experience I had as a child at the Carmel Beach in Monterey, Calif., and being pulled in by the undertow and how absolutely I almost drowned and very dramatic story, right? And that was one of my first experiences with the ocean. I had the joy at first as a child of putting my ankles into the water, the Pacific Ocean and feeling the coolness, and then being excited and taking a step in a little bit closer and suddenly I fell and suddenly I get pulled in, OK. So you can see that reflected in that bubble where it says on the beach as a little boy and then you can see my first index box there has fragile, vulnerable, waves, beach, drowning. And there were other examples of one my first experiences of SCUBA diving in the beautiful kelp beds of Monterey, Calif., and suddenly swimming next to kelp, and if anyone’s every been to the Monterey Bay aquarium or you’ve seen pictures know that the kelp in the Pacific northwest is actually like a tree. It stand straight up from maybe as deep as 70-80 feet deep, it’s not like a rooted plant, but it attaches itself to rocks and it climbs all the way up to the surface reaching to the sun. It can grow about a foot a day. Well, one of the first times I was swimming in literally a forest of kelp, so you’re surrounded by all these beautiful kelps and the sun is shining through the water and I saw a fish docked against the kelp and I said, oh my gosh, I’m relying on the SCUBA tanks on my back to breathe but this fish is in water it’s like air, because when I’m in air not underneath the water and I breathe, I don’t experience it as this medium that I’m moving through, I just experience it as my environment and that’s what this fish must feel. Anyway, you can see in the second to last box on the right, this characterization or this description of this life and breathing and air and oxygen and connection, etc. OK?
I’m not going to tell all of the stories associated with this, but I wanted to give an example of how that tool was used. Now before I offer you a case study, let’s just talk for a minute about where we would use these story collages and what it would look like across the spectrum of learning and types of situations. I think many of you offered some examples about leadership development. I’m sure we’ve got some great facilitators and designers of leadership and storytelling and leadership are they go hand in hand, right? I mean they really work very well together. And so there are all different kinds of ways in which peer to peer learning, whether you’re doing that in a mentoring environment or whether you’re doing it on an offsite retreat, or whether you’re doing it through a coaching model, any type of leadership development, if leaders are sharing their experiences and you’re asking them to reflect on them story collages are going to be a very effective and powerful tool.
Moving left to right, soft skills, anything around communication, emotional intelligence, any of the areas that we deal with in terms of the soft skills I think also are somewhat self evident as to different ways in which we might ask people to reflect on those stories and share them. I think maybe later on in the Q and A we might want to talk about how do you manage time in learning situations. You’d say to me, hey Terrance, stories are great and gosh, I could kill 2-3 hours having people tell stories, but I do have some learning objectives I’ve got to hit, and how do you do storytelling and still manage time? So I think that’s a really important question and I think we also want to talk about how do we honor in many ways a lot of the learning architectures and learning courses that we’ve put together and introduce storytelling and even a tool like story collage without upsetting the apple cart, without redesigning everything from soup to nuts. And there really are ways to address that. I probably won’t be able to go super deep into any of those details, but, write your questions and certainly share that out because those are areas to explore.
Technical training is surprisingly, depending on the nature of the technical training or compliance training, those are really areas where I think stories really have a more prominent role than we assume that they do. If you think about agile, anybody who’s working in the agile methodology, we know that requirements are gathered by virtue of what they call them user stories. And immediately Carol chimed in with and yes and we can use them for test scripts and user acceptance testing and all kinds of great stuff. Absolutely. And I think that in technical training people need to hear from each other’s experiences. We know that’s there’s a lot of knowledge transfer that needs to occur beyond the mechanics of oftentimes the training that we’re doing. And so I think it’s important to build in the time and the space so that when you look across the diversity of experiences that you have in the training room of technical people, they’re able to learn from each other. One of the other ways you can do that is you can also set it up such that not all of that story swapping has to be happening formally in the actual session itself. Sometimes you might just potentiate, which means you might encourage it during the lunch breaks or during any of the other breaks, people are realizing, gosh, I need to go talk to so and so because it sounds like they’ve done X, Y and Z and so you get that informal learning happening and that you’re potentiating that. You’re making that happen. Informal learning of course, organizational practices, how we run focus groups. Someone earlier on mentioned that they use story telling as a way of querying groups and understanding pain points of groups. Here’s one in from Kim: Stories from first-hand accounts from maintenance folks on mechanical failures give great food for thought in helping other technicians and people be effective in solving those problems moving forward. Another good example from Blanche, thanks Blanche. She says one way it to leverage pre-work too as we get ready for the training. Maybe we’re using Wikis or internal social media vehicles for people to share experiences. Maybe we even have them record short little videos or even audios they could use. You know some of the great tools that are out there are both on the internet and then tools that are standardized internally if you have issues around security or what gets shared. So there are all different ways of doing that.
OK, I’d like to give a little bit of a case study here. I was working with Princess Cruise Lines and one of the things they were actually trying to move towards a story culture and one of the ways they were going to do that was to empower really everyone that touches a customer whether it be inside the headquarter offices or whether it be people who are literally on the boats working as maintenance people, working in the dining rooms, working as concierges, working in the health clubs, whatever it happened to be, that they would all become more mindful of the stories around them. That they would become story ambassadors, they would actually be collecting the stories and sharing them back out going right back to the point that Kim made which was there’s great intelligence and we want to make sure that that stuff is being shared. And then of course if you think about it from a cruise ship standpoint, everything that you do is about how you touch and effect the experience of the customer. So the more examples that you have, not only can you improve your processes, and help train and do knowledge transfer, but they also become points of celebration. They become points of external marketing as well as internal branding and a sense of who and how we are.
So, one intervention that I did across many was to take some of their senior leaders and have them start to reflect on their core values. So you’re reading up there the courtesy respect, I’ll let you read it without reading at you, those are some of their core values. So I took a group of those senior leaders and I said all right, I want you to reflect for a few minutes about experiences that you’ve had, heard, or observed that reminds you or illustrate any of these core values in action. And then for them I prepopulated the story collage with those core values as a starting point. It looked a little different than this. I’ve kind of made it much bigger. Those were actually just one or two boxes of the story collage so there was more room for them to work. And we heard, as you can imagine, all kinds of wonderful stories about how people were in organizations actualizing these values. And what was surprising to them, is at first when you just said, so tell me, how are you doing on these values? If you opened up the conversation and you said to the leaders, tell me on a scale of 1-10 how effective you think in this current fiscal year you’re delivering on these core values. And it became a didactic conversation. It really wasn’t very rich. And you said, well, do you guys have any examples? And I just threw that out as a question. We had maybe a few people, and then I gave them the story collage and had them work first by themselves and then put them in small groups and then of course a large group debrief. It was amazing, and more importantly, not only did they hear from each other, and realized there was just a wealth of stories. One of the ones that was really compelling to me was in terms of we do it right and we serve, is one person told a story of how they turned around, there was a significant health issue for one of the passengers and they were far enough away from port that if wasn’t just a simple job of sending in a helicopter or maybe some of their SOPs, their standard operating procedures for dealing with those situations weren’t adequate for the situation at hand, so do you know what they did? They literally turned the ship around. And they made it up to the other passengers as well in terms of other perks and they asked people to be respectful and helpful in participating, but they coordinated everything that needed to happen so when they got to that port, all of the right medical care was there and they saved a life by doing it. So they were really proud of across not just helping that customer in need, but how they dealt with that from beginning to end even with the customers who were not directly impacted by the health issue, they were proud that they had served and they had done what was right. So really super example.
The response to stories brings synchronization. So, what we see happening is as people open up with some vulnerability and with some trust or they begin to share these experiences, it’s like a pitchfork. When you take a pitchfork and you knock it against a surface, it starts to vibrate. Well what happens when you take that pitchfork that’s vibrating and you hold it next to a dormant pitchfork, that dormant pitchfork starts to vibrate.
And that’s very much a beautiful metaphor a visual metaphor for what happens with stories. When you put people next to one another and they start striking up within themselves their stories, they start connecting with one another. They also start connecting with themselves in unexpected ways because they’re bringing up a wealth of experience from within themselves and so they’re suddenly finding new connections, not just between themselves and others, but even between themselves. And I think that’s the old adage that there’s a reason why we return to some stories over and over again. Those who might come from different religious traditions are very much knowledgeable that we read those key stories that make up your faith over and over again because you’re always learning something new from them and it’s the same thing with great literature and great movies. We love seeing them because we see something new in them.
So sense giving and sense making is really the work that we do as learning professionals. We are creating a space where people can make sense of things and we do that by helping them to remember. What I love about the word remember is it’s about putting things back together. It’s reassembling things. It’s taking things that may have been in isolated pieces in our mind or between ourselves and others and suddenly turning them into networks and nodes of meaning and remembrance. We also create opportunities for connections to be made so once we reconstitute these experiences now suddenly they’re alive. Imagine them with little lights blinking and those lights begin to send out tendrils to one another kind of like the way a peapod would send tendrils up your garden up a vine. And this creates all kinds of places where new learning and new insights can be hung on.
And the last thing is that we are activating people’s imaginations. Once we begin to connect things, we remember things, we create connections, then we can imagine new possibilities. So we trigger; we use different techniques for triggering and eliciting memories in stories. I’ve given you one today, a story collage, lots of other ways. We talked briefly about using timelines as a way, but we want to be really diligent about eliciting stories. We want to give people permission to recall their experiences. We to want help them build connections within themselves and with others. And want to then say what new behaviors as you walk into this new world with this new understanding how is that going to change your behavior, your performance, the way that you’re going to do the work that you do and how you do it?
I’d just like to wrap up on these last two slides with five strategies of how you can get started. And someone mentioned this in their comments already. They talked about you have to create orchestrated and unorchestrated opportunities for people to share stories. Our learning events or our e-learning or however we’re doing informal or mobile learning or all of the different tools in our toolbox, those are orchestrated. And how are we creating opportunities for people to share stories? And are we creating spaces and times and rhythms and cadences in which people in unstructured ways are both encouraged in having opportunities to share stories. And that kind of gets to the second idea which is creating spaces in our organizations that promote informal and extemporaneous intereactions and obviously in the coffee room or in the kitchen, those are obvious places, but what also are we doing and have we thought about whether or not we’re creating story spaces that promote people to interact in those ways?
I think it’s really critical that we look in our organization and say are we paying attention to relationship skill building? I’m going to take one little comment here from Renee: If the learning is virtual with limited verbal interactions, how would you recommend using and encouraging story telling? Oh great. Renee, I’m going to come back to that maybe let’s open up with Renee’s question in just a minute when I finish the next slide. That’s a great one, Renee. Thanks. I believe it’s really critical that we spend time on the development of relationship skills. And that we build these competencies and make that a priority throughout the organization. And as I said, story-based communication skills, from my research, and I have an assessment instrument, as well as a 360 degree coaching and feedback. There are ways to actually develop these skills and the good news is that everyone has them.
Lastly, because I really want to leave as much time as we can for questions, be very purposeful about folding story-based activities into your existing training programs and orient instructional designers to story principals. A lot of this is probably intuitive. It’s probably things that they think about already. We know that they do story boarding. We know that they’re trying to look how do we move from one topic to another. We know that now we’re trying to look at gameification. A lot of you talked about role playing and all of these.
Wendy’s got another great question. That’s awesome. She says how do you encourage direct reports to feel more comfortable with you as a new boss using story telling? Defintely. We’ll get to that in just a second.
So lastly, I would say this stuff is not as self evident. Maybe this is the place where I’m doing the back patting or this is the self promotion, but, really there are some things that your trainers and your instructional designers need to learn and understand in order to be affective. We didn’t even scratch the surface in terms of the group dynamics. Wendy’s question starts to get at that about how do you deal with group dynamics, how do you deal with live story telling and that’s either happening or not happening as well as how do you design. So with that, Sarah, I want to hand back to you and start taking some of these great questions from folks.
SARAH: OK, great. Thank you so much. And we probably have just about four minutes for live Q and A, but attendees, go ahead and send those questions in now. And while we wait for those questions to come in, let me share a little bit about how you can keep in touch. Terrence’s website is called makingstories.net you can also reach him on his email, Terrence@makingstories.net, and all of his books are available on line to purchase. And if you’d like to contact us you can always stay in touch with the normal social media networks and you can also register for our weekly Wednesday webinars at hrdqu.com and we’re also excited to announce we’re hosting the first-ever five day ROI bootcamp at the end of April. So that should be really cool so go ahead and sign up there.
TERRENCE: Let’s start with Renee’s. And her question is if the learning is virtual with limited verbal interactions, how would you recommend using and encouraging story telling? I think people are not necessarily always co-located. You don’t always have the opportunity and one of the suggestions made by someone else about prework is a really good way. So, it may be through the learning management system. Let’s use this webinar as an example. We could set up on the registration page an open-ended question maybe even a short story. For example, I could have put a story about utilizing the story collage with Princess Cruise as a teaser and I could say and what stories do any of you have to share around recent times when you used stories in your learning and then even in a simple registration form, people might type those in and then we would maybe collect those and maybe we would email them and share them with people ahead of time. Maybe we would post them on a share point. So there are those types of ways and there’s such a wealth of social media tools. I don’t even know where to begin. We could have a whole series of webinars just on story telling leveraging in social media, social media tools. You can use some of those. I hope that’s a start Renee. Feel free to ping me at HRDQ with follow up on that and we could go a lot deeper in that, but I hope that’s a starting point.
SARAH: Do you want to answer Wendy’s question?
TERRENCE: Definitely. Should you encourage direct reports to feel more comfortable with you as a new boss using story telling? I think that goes back to if I model. One of the things as a boss is that sometimes we enact our intentions versus announce them. As a leader, you enact your intentions versus announce them. So maybe the way to actually start is to create, I should some shared experience. Even if you could something as simple as taking them out for coffee or setting a pattern of walking by their desks and maybe asking them an appreciative question about some objects on their desk and then maybe slowly just offering something personal about yourself. If they had a baseball on their desk, maybe talk about your love of the San Francisco Giants and the last game that you went to or how son or daughter went to the World Series for Little League. You break the ice. Stories are really good for breaking the ice. And then you move to more complex forms of story telling where hopefully as you share with them both your successes and failures and I would say that as a boss, look more for slowly ways that you can be vulnerable with that person by sharing with them experiences and that will build up a pattern that will open up the opportunity for more rich story telling between yourself and them.
SARAH: All right, great thank you. And Terrence would you like to add any final thoughts before I go ahead and wrap this up?
TERRENCE: I want to just notice that we’ve had great participation it makes me almost want to cry that the Star Wars technique of us all being piped in in some virtual space seeing each other and interacting is not quite primetime yet because this topic is really just rich and we’ve had great participation from people and I just hope that we hear more from people and hope we have an opportunity to interact on this stuff again soon.
SARAH: Great, yes. And I know you said something about the story collage white paper, that is actually up on our blog right now. And we are going to include that in the follow up email with all the answered questions. That is all the time we have for today.
TERRENCE: One last thing, take these last few seconds as you leave, if there are questions, I know Sarah said that we would answer any question that was emailed and sent so even though we didn’t get to the question now we do commit to getting back to you on all the questions asked, even the questions that you might type in now in the moment or two before you leave. So, I just want to thank you again for your time feel free to give us any last questions and we will commit to getting back to you.
SARAH: OK, great. So, we appreciate your time and we hope you found today’s webinar informative.
What’s the quickest way to get at the heart of people’s real needs? When we succeed in crashing through the barriers of people’s rational facades and giving them a safe but invigorating space to discover and articulate their real perceptions based on their experiences, powerful things happen. Work with a new tool for eliciting people’s stories that accelerates learning, insights, and action through meaningful dialogue.
By sharing stories we are better able to express and appreciate our differences. The social network of stories becomes the fabric for meaning to emerge. Think of stories as complex self-organizing systems.
Our differentiated sets of experiences are integrated and tied together by the rich, fluid nature of stories. In this medium of stories, we create the foundation for building a true community of learners. Join Terrence Gargiulo in this interactive webinar as he sheds light on the power of true connection through communication.
Participants Will Learn
- Be given a new tool for eliciting stories that facilitates reflective conversations
- Discuss case studies that feature use of the tool
- Review strategies for implementing story-based communications in organizational learning
Who Should Attend
- Instructional Designers
- Managers and Team Leaders
- Organization Development Professionals
- Human Resources Managers
- Management Consultants
Terrence is the author of eight books several of which have been translated into Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. For his creative use of narrative, INC Magazine awarded Terrence their Marketing Master Award. His work as an internationally recognized organizational development consultant earned him the 2008 HR Leadership Award from the Asia Pacific HRM Congress for his ground breaking research on story-based communication skills.
Terrence wrote the libretto for his father’s opera Tryillias which was accepted for a nomination for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in music. In 2009, Terrence and his sister Franca founded the Occhiata Foundation. The Occhiata Foundation brings arts engagement to schools through the multi-disciplinary prism of opera – http://www.occhiata.org
Terrence is a frequent speaker at international and national conferences. Terrence enjoys scuba diving, cooking, singing, and the sport of fencing. He was Junior National Champion, member of three US Junior World Championship teams, NCAA All American and an alternate for the 1996 Olympics. He has appeared in interviews on FOX TV, Comcast Network and CNN radio.