Autonomy is a motivating force – for family and work

Posted by Ronald van Domburg - August 19, 2014
Filed in Changing behaviour

In July my family went to Germany for a holiday – a camping trip to Potsdam, near Berlin. My wife Anouk and I had decided beforehand that we wanted to teach our children, Anemoon (aged 7) and Jasmijn (aged 4), something about how to handle money. So we gave the kids 10 euros each, to be spent at their discretion.

One rainy day during our trip, we visited the Sea Life aquarium in Berlin. It was a beautiful experience – Anouk and I loved it, as did the children. Except that at the end of the visit we inevitably found ourselves in a souvenir shop, full of garbage. I immediately walked to the exit, longing for a cappuccino, but the kids had other ideas. Anemoon found a Nemo toy to cuddle, while Jasmijn wildly waved a pirate flag. This is what they wanted to buy with their vacation money!

Holiday lesson story

Tired and irritable, in need of a cup of coffee, I said to the kids: ‘You can spend your money on better stuff than this trash. It’ll just collect dust when we’re home again’. At that moment Anouk decided it was time to intervene. She said to me: ‘We had an agreement that the kids could decide themselves how to spend the money, and now that they want to buy something, you want to stop it? No way’. I couldn’t argue with that, so although I knew I was right, I had to give in. A moment later, two very happy kids left Sea Life with their new treasures, holding them tight.

Well, for the rest of our holiday, the pirate flag fluttered continuously from the top of our tent. And wherever we went, Nemo accompanied us. The kids had not wasted their money – they’d spent it on things they really wanted. I had to admit that I was wrong.

Autonomy is a motivating force

Perhaps you recognise this type of behaviour in your organisation. Or perhaps, from time to time, in yourself …
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How to trigger the retelling of foundation stories

Posted by Shawn Callahan - August 14, 2014
Filed in Business storytelling

Every organisation, big or small, needs a foundation story that illustrates what’s important to them, what they stand for. But it’s important to remember that foundation stories are not time lines. They are pivotal moments that shape culture.

I was reminded of this on a recent trip to the capital of Mexico, where I came across two of the country’s foundation stories.

Los Niños Héroes

Walking through Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, the garden paths lined with street sellers calling our their bargains, it’s hard to imagine that the castle at its centre was the scene of a bloody battle back in September 1847.


At the height of the Mexican–American War, during the siege of Mexico City, the US Marines decided they had to control Chapultepec Castle. At that time the castle was a military academy, and the soldiers in training, some as young as 13, formed part of its 400-strong defence force.

The Mexicans did their very best to hold their ground, but it soon became clear that it was a hopeless fight and their commander ordered a retreat. However, six brave cadets, known today in Mexico as Los Niños Héroes (the boy heroes), ignored the order and instead fought to their deaths.
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Anecdote turns 10

Posted by Shawn Callahan - August 11, 2014
Filed in News

10 years ago on this date I wandered into the registration office to register Anecdote as a new business with the view that we could use story techniques to bring more humanity back into the workplace. My long-term business partner and dear friend Mark joined soon after and in those early days our customers were a little bemused by the idea that stories could make a difference. How have things changed.

Happy Birthday balloons in the sky

We were probably a little before our time but we persisted and as we narrowed our focus to helping leaders influence and inspire with stories as well as helping companies tell the story of their strategy, we found ourselves getting busier and busier.

Today our programs are delivered around the World by Anecdote and a network of business partners who are also passionate about the role stories can have in business.

A big thanks to Mark for being a great business partner and friend. Anecdote would not exist without you.

Thanks to the Anecdote team. You rock Helen, Kerenza, Ron, Paul and Jason.

And thanks to all our great supporters, clients, families and friends.

And finally a big hug and kiss to Sheenagh who has been a solid supporter and cheerleader despite the ups and downs of running a business. Thanks honey.

We are looking forward to the next 10 years.


2 inspiring examples of business leaders and storytellers

Posted by Mark Schenk - July 31, 2014
Filed in Leadership

A common question we are asked is ‘are there any examples of business leaders who are good storytellers’. Shawn wrote a post a while back with a list of nine good examples.

I’d like to add two more to that list. In both circumstances, these leaders made clear and memorable business points by relating relevant personal experiences. More importantly, the use of relevant and engaging examples raised their personal ‘brands’ substantially with their audiences.

What's your story?

Business leaders and storytellers

The first example was in June when I was in Hyderabad running the Storytelling for Leaders™ workshop for the top talent group at Microsoft IT. At the end of the day, the Head of Microsoft IT (MSIT) India, Raj Biyani, joined us to share his thoughts on the subject. He told two stories (one was a personal anecdote and the other a parable) and then invited questions. The first question was ‘when did you first realise how powerful stories are in business?’
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Stories can change something normal into something extraordinary

Posted by Ronald van Domburg - July 22, 2014
Filed in Anecdotes, Business storytelling

A few months ago, in my car on the way to see a client, I heard an interview on the radio. There was this lady who had been nominated for the title ‘Cleaning Lady of the Year’.

The woman told the journalist about her work in a way that completely surprised me. She was so enthusiastic, so full of passion and energy. This woman loved cleaning.

Happy cleaning lady

Her career began when her house was so spic and span that there was simply nothing to do anymore, and her husband begged her to find a job as a cleaning lady. So she took a job at a primary school, cleaning the classrooms.

Stories can change something normal into something special

The arrangement was that the schoolkids would do some tidying before going home and the woman would take care of the rest.

To encourage the children in their cleaning, the woman would write a few compliments on the blackboard along with her name, and perhaps a little drawing.

For the kids, it became a sport to clean up their room as much as possible. In the morning, they couldn’t wait to enter the classroom to see what had been written on the blackboard this time.

What struck me the most about the woman’s story was the reaction of the journalist. At the beginning of the interview, he asked her some critical questions, as journalists do.
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2 simple ways to help you remember a business story

Posted by Shawn Callahan - July 17, 2014
Filed in Business storytelling

Imagine you’re in a meeting and one of your colleagues makes the bold statement, ‘We need a big initiative here. It’s really the only way to have an impact’.

Now, you know that small initiatives can also spark big changes, but just disagreeing with your colleague is unlikely to change their mind, or anyone else’s. What you need to do is share a story about when a small thing made a difference. But to do that you need to remember a business story.


Over the years, we’ve developed a simple approach to remembering stories to retell on occasions such as this. It has two parts: the organic process and the story bank.

The organic process

This is all about filling your brain with stories that you will remember when you need them. It has three simple steps. Read the rest of this entry »


How an Indian hotel chain turned their customer satisfaction around using stories

Two years ago Mark and I flew to New Delhi to run a public Storytelling for Leaders program. This public program was an extended version because we combined a day on business storytelling with a day of what we call story-listening, that is, collecting stories in an organisation and using them to instigate culture change.


One of the participants was Balaji V. who is the human resources director of Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India. Mahindra Resorts has 43 properties in India and is the market leaders in vacation ownership in India.

We didn’t know it at the time but Balaji V. had a problem. Customer satisfaction was low, staff morale was dipping and it was, as you can imagine, affecting business. Balaji was feeling a bit stressed.

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Sustainability Stories – Conundrum and Opportunity

Posted by Christopher Kogler - July 10, 2014
Filed in Communication

We’ve all read and heard the word sustainability but how many of us can articulate what it means? When I started working in the sustainability space several years ago, I was frankly baffled that so many people knew the word, but so few could really explain its meaning. I still regularly ask people for their understanding of the concept and aside from sustainability officers and their troops, I continue to get a wide range of answers.

Willow school

Photo Courtesy of The Willow School © 2014

Sustainability directly involves economics, ecology, politics and culture. It encompasses wide areas of expertise and includes numerous business sectors. I like to say it encompasses the worlds of earth, air, wind and fire! Herein lays the conundrum. There is no easy way to explain sustainability; sustainability is truly Complex.

A sleep inducing definition

In 1987 the UN’s Brundtland Commission coined the definition most often quoted for the term, Sustainable Development: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This is an important concept; perhaps one of the most important concepts of the latter 20th and early 21st centuries. But it puts me to sleep! It’s instantly forgettable (read it again, how much can you remember?!?)…in one ear and out the other… why should I care when I can’t even remember?

Why is one of the most profound and important ideas of our present era so unmemorable?

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New European Storytelling for Leaders Partners

Posted by Mark Schenk - July 8, 2014
Filed in News

On 19 and 20 June I was in London to run the accreditation program for a few of our new Storytelling for Leaders (TM) Partners. We had a fun time together and its always a pleasure working with great people. Working with experienced and professional facilitators and storytellers meant I learned lots as well. Many thanks to Stuart for helping me focus the Connection Stories activity on ‘moments’.

If you are in the UK or Europe (apparently there is a difference) and want to learn more about Storytelling for Leaders, give one of them a call.



New Storytelling for Leaders partners

Back Row L-R: Pete Fox (who has been an Anecdote Partner in the UK for many years), Paul Joosten (based in The Netherlands), Ronald van Domberg (also based in The Netherlands)

Front Row L-R: Hannah Havas (based in France), yours truly, Stuart Reid (based in the UK).


A business story – take responsibility

Posted by Shawn Callahan - July 3, 2014
Filed in Anecdotes, Business storytelling

Business stories don’t need to be fancy. They should be told just like you would tell it if you were catching up with a colleague informally. I would tell this one when chatting to senior leaders about how they can model the behaviour they want–in fact they must. Or it would be good as an example of bringing a organisational value to life with a story.

If you follow my Soundcloud account you will get to hear these types of business stories a week ahead of it arriving on our blog. Love to hear your feedback. When would you tell this story? What would be your point?