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The 7 story forms valued within organisations

Posted by  Andrew Rixon —September 26, 2006
Filed in Business storytelling, Culture

“When is storytelling valued within your organisation?” was one of the questions we explored within our Australian wide survey on awareness and attitudes of story and narrative techniques in organisations. Categorising the responses from almost 400 senior executives and decision makers from public and private organisations across Australia, there emerged 7 popular story forms. Those were:

  • Hero stories – seen particularly for sales, customer service
  • Success stories
  • Inspirational stories
  • “Lessons/Learning” stories
  • “Who we are” stories – an embodiment of company values in action, not just espoused values
  • “How we got here” stories – stories exploring a companies history and foundations
  • “My time here” stories – provides insight into the individuals work/life history with the organisation

I’ve included an example of the hero story, success story, inspirational story and lesson/learning story forms below. Thanks to all our participants.

Hero Story for Sales
“Fairly often the heroism of the sales force is communicated to the greater organisation. One particular story that I remember and re-tell myself occasionally is of a sales exec who managed to get a contract signed on the last day of the month with a government department – the last day of the month was a Saturday!”

Success Story
“Our organisation uses stories well in learning experiences and in our national conferences. About 3 years ago we completely abandoned the ritual sales/EBIT/Profit data driven powerpoints from our national conferences and we instead took our teams on a journey through great stories. This year at our national conference we had 800 store managers hearing about how we will get to our next performance horizon through the great stories that were already happening in the business. We then supplemented these internal messages with speakers who have told us their story. This year a particular highlight was an African American who beat all odds to become a star sportperson.”

Inspirational Story
“We have people within out organization who volunteer for a 3 mth assignment to Cambodia to work with the UN World Food Program, as part of our committment to Corporate Social Responsibility. These volunteers are known within our organization as ‘Storytellers’. They come back and travel around the country telling the story of their experience, motivating our staff to become engaged in the fundraising that we do and the inkind support that we provide from within Australia, as well as the rest of the world where we are located. In this situation, Storytelling is the only medium that would convey the emotion and engage the audience.”

Lesson/Learning Story
“Safety Convention – a paralympian was invited to tell his story to the employees to get across the issue of safeworking and the duty of care to yourself and others. The Convention also provided an opportunity for employees to hear the stories of their work colleagues in small informal sessions and via themed stands and displays – example: those who were up for Safety innovation Awards were available at set times to share their story and expereinces that led to the innovation.”

When has storytelling been valued within your organisation? What other story forms have you noticed being valued?

Also read more about awareness of positive and negative stories in organisations here.

About  Andrew Rixon

5 Responses to “The 7 story forms valued within organisations”

  1. DellTech Says:

    Success stories would be a popular one

  2. Nerida Hart Says:

    When do we get to see a paper on the results of the survey? – I await with great anticipation (and I am sure I won’t be the only one)!

  3. Andrew Rixon Says:

    Great question Nerida. Well asked. (Ever heard that before? :))
    Watch this space!

  4. Yigal Chamish Says:

    Hello,
    I am writing my PhD. thesis on “Executives as storytellers”, and my interest is to look at the Tellers and the use their own use of stories. You can see my post on it, here: http://yigalc.wordpress.com/2006/09/06/executives-as-storytellers-who-else-researching-this-topic-for-phd/.
    The forms of stories mentioned here are interesting. You also mentioned that executives responded positively to the survey.
    Did you looked at the responders as tellers as well? What were their response?
    Thank you

  5. Andrew Rixon Says:

    Hi Yigal,
    Great to hear from you. Your PhD topics sounds great.
    Our survey didnt explore the responders as tellers. We did ask a question around the awareness of who the storytellers and storylisteners were in their organisation. I will blog about this soon.
    I also think your use of blogging will be (maybe already is!) an innovative way to help with your PhD. Great communicative tool. :)
    Warm regards,
    Andrew

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