Australian managers intuit story most useful for culture change

Posted by  Andrew Rixon —October 5, 2006
Filed in Business storytelling

When asked in our recent Australian wide survey on the attitudes and awareness of story and narrative in organisations “How much have you heard or read about narrative and story methods for business?” the response from the 390 participating HR Managers, GMs, Directors and others was on the whole some or not much. (See figure below).

Amount heard or read about narrative and story

Even though the majority of our participants had read little around the approaches of story and narrative methods in business, when asked which areas they felt might have the greatest application and use for story approaches the area of organisational culture change was the clear leader.

The top 4 areas which emerged being considered useful for story were:

  • 37.1 % Organisational culture change initiatives
  • 32.6 % Enhancing leaders ability to motivate
  • 32.2 % Enhancing leaders ability to communicate vision, goals and direction
  • 31.4 % Organisational learning initiatives

It may come as no surprise to some that story has utility with working with culture. The work of Jung and Campbell, although controversial, was all grounded in story to explore cultures. It is also through story where we can learn the most about organisational culture. Think about those first few days in a new job, or in a new organisation. Think about the water cooler conversations you might have overheard. The tea-room stories shared. All of these stories provide a powerful way to learn about a companies culture. Yep, it makes sense to me that our participants might have intuited that story is useful for organisational culture change initiatives.

About  Andrew Rixon


  1. It should be no surprise – learning via stories is so much easier because of the contextual information imparted along with the facts. We have to really work to remember facts, but put them in a story context, and memory becomes an open book (actually, more like a hypertext document).

  2. Andrew Rixon says:

    Thanks Robert.
    Good point.
    We have had good results with the use of story processes for “lessons” learning projects. A variant of the history trip is a great one to use with groups. It involves bringing out the key events which the group can identify relevant for a project and then inviting stories around these key events. Mood mapping can be a good prompter for stories too. The debrief is a great time to reflect and discover patterns and learnings.
    Warm regards,

  3. I have no quibble with the hypothesis that stories can be useful in org change, but of course I want a story of two about why a person who knows nothing or little about story telling might think it would be useful, proving yet again that stats say so little and stories add richness.
    Another question – just because this is the third time I’ve seen it this week – who has ever had a conversation around the water cooler? Not me! Personally, I think this is such an americanism.
    Keep up the great stories guys.

  4. Good point Sharon. We need to share some more stories about how we have used story listening approaches for organisations like IBM, Army, National Australia Bank, Telstra and AstraZeneca.

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