Connecting Scotland hosts a session storytelling
Last month I reviewed The Medallion in a guest blog. (https://muddypearl.com/a-book-for-rememberance ) The writer, Cathy Gohlke, an expert storyteller, ventures into territory few would brave; Warsaw in 1939. I admired how she held the threads together and produced a dark and complex novel based on accurate research. It kept me turning the pages.
Yesterday a friend told me her neighbour in Auckland no longer asks her au pair to undertake the school run. With the pandemic, many au pairs have returned home, and replacements from abroad have not been permitted to enter New Zealand. There is a high risk that, at the school gates, a desperate parent might persuade an au pair to move to their family for an enhanced salary.
One, with all the literary conventions of rich description, drama and suspense round a central question of whether the two halves of the broken medallion would ever meet, taking many pages, the other a couple of phrases about a first world problem. One absorbs, considers deep moral issues. The other is a snippet, useful when drinks and nibbles are circulated (remember those occasions?) with minimal value – unless you need an au pair in Auckland or run a global child-care agency.
Of course, stories encompass both ends of the scale illustrated above, and everything in between. They illustrate, inspire, entertain, educate, enlighten, move people and often motivate them to act.
Stories can be used by organisations for exactly these reasons. But how?
Connecting Scotland hosted a wonderful session on storytelling in organisations led by David Huchens. A gifted speaker and storyteller, who ‘helps leaders all around the world find and tell their stories’ he addressed this question most entertainingly.
Having established that organisations have stories, and can use these, and outlining their value, David then noted that all organisations need
He illustrated these with the types of stories that serve these different requirements. Organisations that need continuity focus on stories that illustrate their lasting values, core principles, their identity. Examples include religious groups with their rich tradition of stories of creation and beyond. Business organisations tend to lean towards novelty; stories of dreaming and finding new solutions, and of shaking up perceived notions.
All organisations of course swing between the need for fresh ideas and the need to retain core principles and the best of the old. As the environment changes – and I hesitate to use the word ‘unprecedented’ to describe 2020 – all organisations are being forced to enter a period of transition.
This, says Hutchens, is where story can be particularly useful. The sharing of a story can bond people, inspire them to stop, reconsider, move on, act. Even failures and mistakes can feed and normalise a culture of story sharing. Asking the simple question – tell me a time when…. or….when were we at our best? can provide a rich harvest of stories.
Connecting Scotland’s expertise is in getting people together and creating the conditions for people to share stories and be open to ideas, and each other – a story will fall on deaf ears unless these skills are implemented first. This session was most helpful for practitioners in encouraging us to use our skills in supporting people to use stories positively.
Connecting Scotland also supports organisations to bridge the gap between the hero of a story and the group; the move from ‘I to We’. Hutchens reminded us that empathy-inspiring stories are usually around an individual, such as the Chief Executive of Patagonia, who pivoted the company long before the word became trendy. That inspiration then needs to expand to ‘us’ and the difference we together can make.
This was a rich evening hosted delightfully by Connecting Scotland and like all good stories we were moved, our story muscles stretched, and we were engaged and inspired.
Stories of course need a good resolution. David Hutchen’s story is worth reading on his website (https://www.davidhutchens.com) We were honoured to hear him. The two stories I started with? The two parts of the medallion were of course reunited, and the lady in Auckland let her au pair go, employing a local grandmother to look after her children.
Every story has a satisfying resolution – and this session too had a beautifully rounded sense of coming full circle and landing.
Thank you, Connecting Scotland for providing such a wonderful platform for a world class expert to teach and inspire us!