** Anecdote News **
Brought to you by Anecdote – Putting Stories to Work
Discovering lost knowledge
Clients often ask us to suggest tangible ways to minimise
the impact of people leaving their organisation. The exodus
might be due to people retiring or in the case of one
organisation, people leave because the culture says
“you need to move positions to show your career is progressing.”
In one case everyone in a regional outpost was new to the job
leaving the team of 16 without a good understanding of the
work that has been done in the 15 years their group has been
operating. To be effective this regional group needs to know
about the scientific studies that have occurred in their region.
To re-find this knowledge the group is planning to invite past
employees to a world cafe. But because the current team is
new and they only know some of the past employees, they are going
to ask the people they know to name others they should invite and so
on until they get as many names as possible.
The event will be part reunion and part world cafe where
small tables will be manned by a person from the current team
and past employees will join each table and talk about the projects
they remember were done in the region. All the ideas are captured
on butcher’s paper tablecloth and the visitors rotate to the next table
where their table facilitator fills them in on the conversation that’s
happened so far prompting people to remember new projects.
Questions that elicit stories
We’ve written quite a bit on how to elicit stories and the questions you
should ask, and the ones to avoid.
One of the things we said is, “use ‘when’ and ‘where’ questions and
avoid ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions.” Questions like “When have you
been inspired at work?” tend to elicit stories. While questions like,
“What do you think about your work?” tends to elicit abstract opinions.
There is an exception that always bothered me. The simple question,
“What happened?” This is a great story collecting question. Well it hit me
yesterday while listening to a talkback radio host, Richard Stubbs. His
show is all about eliciting stories from his listeners and yesterday he
wanted stories about the things people achieved this week and he
simply asked, “What did you do?”
So ‘what’ questions that focus on actions elicit stories. Other ‘what’
questions such as “What do you think?” or “What do you feel?” will
likely result in opinions.
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About Shawn Callahan
Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of 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:
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