An anecdote circle resembles a focus group except it’s designed to elicit people’s stories—their real life experiences—rather than opinions.
The role of the anecdote facilitator is to ask very few, open questions which helps the participants recount real events. The facilitator spends most of their time listening and whenever someone offers an opinion they ask for an example. Sharon Darwent (a colleague at the IBM Cynefin Centre) taught me how to conduct anecdote circles and her simple advice was: “relish silence and ask for examples.” It’s put me in good stead ever since.
We find you can run anecdote circles with between 4–12 people with 6–8 being the ideal number. An anecdote circle typically runs for 60–90 minutes or whenever the group runs our of energy. The longest anecdote circle I’ve run lasted 2.5 hours—it was exhausting.
Let me know if you would like to know anything else about this approach to collecting narrative.
About Shawn Callahan
Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on: