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Learning business storytelling through observation and mimicry

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 19, 2009
Filed in Business storytelling

Just spent a fabulous day at NAB’s new Academy running our storytelling program. Wow, what a venue. We were in the Scribbler room: wall-to-wall whiteboards, pin boards and butchers paper. A facilitator’s dream.

After arriving home, and relaxing with a glass of wine in hand, I was chatting to Sheen about her day. She’s learned heaps of new ways to teach her 4-7 year olds at her new primary school. In particular the school’s emphasis on whole language has enabled Sheen to put these ideas into practice. I asked how she learned these new techniques. “By watching and listening to my colleagues and then giving it go myself,” she said.

Makes sense. It’s an approach we can all use to develop our business storytelling skills. The pre-requisite is to be able to identify stories when they are being told, but with that skill under your belt it’s time to don your ethnographer hat and watch your fellow storytelling colleagues in action.

In particular keep an eye on when they tell stories, and when they don’t. How do they move into telling a story? What type of stories do they tell? Are their stories designed to teach, illustrate values, spark action, convey a vision? Where do they tell stories (one on one, informal gatherings, meeting, presentations)? And most importantly watch those people who are listening. What is the response?

By reflecting on what you observe you can then have a crack yourself. And don’t forget to set some time aside to reflect on what happens. Then rinse and repeat.

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:

One Response to “Learning business storytelling through observation and mimicry”

  1. Terri Rains Says:

    We should all wear that ethnographic cap more often, too. When we occasionally step away and recognize/observe good storytelling in action, it really does make a difference to our own skills.

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