How do we collect stories? How do we know which stories to collect, and why? For that matter, what is a story?
For practical answers to those questions above, there are many helpful articles throughout the Anecdote Blog. If you need ideas about how to use story for family-history and the like, or to help your community work better, or your business succeed in its aims, that’s one of the first places you should go for advice.
For example, how do we collect stories? The first part, perhaps, is to pick a good place and time, and get ready. But once there, what we need next is story-triggering, to get people talking along the lines that we need. There’s a great post about this: ‘Storytelling for non-storytellers‘, with a really helpful list of ‘open questions’, to encourage people to give you answers that are more than just ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Use those questions with the improv technique of ‘yes-and’ to lead your storytellers to tell you more.
Another key skill we need is story-listening – actively listening to our story-tellers. For advice on that, see the post ‘Listening, mentoring, storytelling‘: for example, it’s important to remove distractions, ask good ‘open-questions’, keep the flow going by telling stories too, and show that we are listening:
Body language is the other way to show you’re listening. You know what to do. I find it fascinating to watch body language in our workshops. When we are sharing opinions people lean back and have that “prove it to me” look on their faces, but when are sharing stories everyone leans forward.
We also need to know what makes a useful story. What we look for, in the everyday flow of narrative, are specific key items:
- the players, the actors in the story, their respective roles – though note that in a business-context especially, these can sometimes be machines as well as people
- the plan or the place – the context of the story
- the events – the structure and sequence of ‘what happened next’
- the trigger that makes it into a true story: “something unexpected happened”
That’s what we need: people, place, events, and ‘something unexpected happened’ – because it’s in that ‘unexpected’ that key learnings take place, that a family or community or business learns more about what they stand for and who they really are. To bring this all together, see the post ‘Making the most of story-work‘: it’ll help you a lot in gaining the best value from your stories.
And remember too that whilst stories themselves are important, they’re only one small part of what can be done with story-work in business and elsewhere. Take a look at some of the other resources on the Anecdote website, such as the whitepaper ‘How to use stories to size up a situation‘: there’s a lot of value there.
Use these resources well, and have fun with them too!
Well defined processes to make your strategy stick, training programs to build your story skills and a process to ensure stories are shared regularly. Learn how Anecdote can help your business here
About Tom Graves
Principal Consultant at Tetradian Consulting, Tom's main professional interest is in whole-of-organisation integration, and tools and techniques to improve the same. His main personal interest is in writing on skills-development and other such oddities of human existence.