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Storytelling in Organizations: Why Storytelling Is Transforming 21st Century Organizations and Management Paperback – August 26, 2004
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"Storytelling In Organizations is brain food for managers who want to ascend to leadership positions. Melding four different perspectives, the authors make a compelling case to become a more relevant, powerful, and memorable communicator. By the
time you finish the book you will be thinking differently and running to a mirror to practice, practice, practice."
-- Jim Hatherley, author of 'Daring To Be Different, A Manager's Ascent To Leadership'
"Story telling is increasingly recognized as central to organizational life. This book draws on the expertise of four thought leaders in this area to help us all understand the role of narative and ways that we can best leverage stories in our own organizations. It is a must read for those looking for more effective approaches to knowledge sharing and transfer, large-scale change, employee socialization and leadership."
-- Rob Cross, Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Virginia and Author of The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations
"The authors weave a fascinating tale, one that took place at the Smithsonian and resulted in the unexpected- the lawyer, the film director,
the scientist, and the historian all agreeing on the power of narrative and storytelling to compel people, as well as the organizations they manage, to
change. I would highly recommend this to anyone dealing with the issue of organizational change."
-- Bruno Laporte, Manager, Knowledge and Learning, The Worldbank
"At the heart of Product Development are our consumers' stories of unmet needs and desires. In R&D, we utilize these stories to inspire breakthrough technical innovations and delightful new products that resonate with our consumers in their journeys toward "happily ever after." This book provides wonderful tools to spark and leverage storytelling functionally and organizational to create collaborative work environments and authentic
visions of what's possible."
-- Dr Jamesina A. Fitzgerald, VP Global Oral Care Manager & Scientist, Procter & Gamble
"Storytelling is the single most effective way to communicate a change in an organization. Through stories, people visualize events, understand concepts and engage both their hearts and minds. Vision and mission statements people read, walk out of a room, and two days later cannot remember. But tell them a story and they will not only remember, they will repeat it."
-- Stacy McCarthy, Director, Marketing and Strategy and Customer Communications, The Boeing Company
"In a world where all aspects of life are more integrated than ever a leaders' ability to connect with people is more critical than ever. We can no longer solely rely on connectedness through geography, culture or country, The sort of "automatic" connecting we were spoiled with. There are simply too many choices, too much change and too many ways of going your own way to blindly just do what you are told. Rather leadership today must connect with the deeper meaning that exists in every human soul. Storytelling in general and the authors in this book in particular, offers inspiring insights into the art and rewards of telling a story."
-- Mats Lederhausen, Managing Director, McDonald's Ventures, McDonald's Corporation President Business Development
"...lays out for the first time why narrative and storytelling should be part of the mainstream of organizational and management thinking."
- Journal for Quality & Participation
Learn the power of storytelling for organizational success explained by master storytellers
Top customer reviews
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Though the book is written by professionals and academicians, they only do a fair job of telling the story and describing "what" storytelling is and to some extent "why" it works. It is ineffectual in teaching the most important lesson--the "how" to tell a story.
Regretfully, only one author's work is effective, and it is a shame his strength is watered down by the mediocrity of the others. The result is that this book represents a lost opportunity to impart meaningful, actionable knowledge sharing.
Two reasons account for the failure. First, no clear-cut model is presented. This hinders the would-be story teller in that there is no repeatable roadmap to follow in structuring a story, thereby making storytelling practice and critique difficult. Second, the book itself is a poor example of story telling.
The reader is severely distracted by the disparate writing styles and sometimes overlapping content of the authors, the not-so-occasional editorializing and a peppering of poorly written case studies that lack the very punch that the authors are suggesting is the power of the story. I found myself asking, "what's the point" a number of times.
Had I not been holding out hope that some useful nugget of wisdom might be forthcoming, I would have set it aside after the first chapter. Now, after finishing the book I wish I had. A trip to the library for recent articles on the subject might better serve the would-be story teller.
I found the 2004 "reflection" sections particularly valuable, since they make clear that storytelling turned out to be far more than the fad many feared it would become in 2001. Especially useful are John Seely Brown's reflections -- including his discussions of "knowledge ecologies." The bibliography and the endnotes to each chapter also help map the landscape of a field that is, in Stephen Denning's words, "widening and deepening."
Of course the title is incredibly vague, and is in one sense entirely true even if the authors merely mention both storytelling and organizations in passing. They don't - in order to justify this title - have to tell us anything at all ABOUT storytelling or organizations. Though having said that, I suspect that the title will lead most people to EXPECT to learn something about the use of storytelling in organisations, the what, the when, the why and the how.
Unfortunately, as the previous reviewer comments, only one of the four authors comes anywhere near meeting these expectations.
The book, which comes in at just under 200 pages - just under 180 if you ignore the index, the potted biographies and the "Further Reading" list - is divided into just six chapters.
Chapter 1 consists of 4 descriptions of "How I came to Storytelling" - one by each author.
Chapters 2-5 inclusive are each allocated to a different author and consist, as far as I can tell, of (a) the transcript of the person's presentation at a conference on storytelling held in 2001, followed by the author's "reflections" approximately four years later.
Chapter 6 is a "wrap up" chapter by Steve Denning on "The Role of Narrative in Organizations."
First problem - the way someone talks in a presentation should be quite different from the way they write the same information. Apart from anything else, repetition is useful and necessary in a presentation - it can be boring and frustrating in a written text. And that is certainly the case throughout most of this book.
Second problem - although the authors occasionally mention what one of their co-authors has said/written, the text doesn't link up particularly well. Indeed, there seems to be a remarkable lack of agreement as to what this book is about. Maybe the title wasn't dreamed up until after all the draft manuscripts were in?
In Chapter 2, Larry Prusak appears to be talking and writing about business communications in general - and Larry Prusak. He certainly mentions "story" from time to time, but only a couple of days after reading his chapter I couldn't for the life of me remember anything that struck me as being the least bit significant about it.
Chapter 3, by John Seely Brown, likewise deals with business communications, though he does get as close to storytelling as the proverbial exchanges of information around the water cooler and the mobile phone equivalent. Whilst this is certainly valid, to still be making it a key point in a chapter on storytelling in 2004 seems extremely "old hat." Again, the chapter made no lasting impression as far as I was concerned.
Chapter 4, Steve Denning's initial chapter, was the first to actually address "storytelling," as such, IMO. It certainly contains a few interesting pieces of information and some helpful examples, and if it had been supported by chapters of a similar calibre from Denning's co-authors then I'd be giving the book a 4 star rating at least.
By itself, however, even when taken in conjunction with the wrap up chapter, Denning's contributions aren't enough to save the book, as a whole, from being thoroughly mediocre.
Just for completeness, Chapter 5, by Katalina Groh, seems to be primarily a major excercise in blowing a trumpet for her own film company. Although she does make two or three important comments on storytelling, there is just so much repetition and waffle in this chapter that the good stuff is quickly buried by the dross.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the book is how little any of the authors - including Denning - seemed to understand about "how" to tell stories - which is maybe why that topic receives such scant coverage.
For example, at one point Denning comments on his idea as to why storytelling is more effective as a way of conveying information compared with a simple presentation of facts and figures. The crux of the matter, he tells us, on page 170, is that:
"We remember what is in a story because our feelings are reached and because the listener becomes personally involved with the story."
Well, that's open to discussion. Not all stories automatically inspire a particularly emotional response, yet even then stories tend to be more easily remembered than plain facts and figures.
Because information is more easily remembered when it has a clear framework which makes it a coherent whole.
In storytelling the story itself is the framework. A list of facts and figures only becomes a whole if (a) a framework is provided along with the information, or (b) the listener already knows the context in detail, and/or (c) the listener is in any case used to receiving and dealing with information presented in this format.
Overall, a very underpowered and unsatifactory book.