August, 2012 | Published by Anecdote - Putting Stories to Work.
Welcome to the latest edition of Anecdotally.
What a month! We’ve been busy writing proposals, running workshops and helping organisations tell their strategic stories. Despite being busy, and perhaps unsurprisingly, we’ve succumbed to temptation and found time to buy a stack of new business books to add to our reading lists. You can tell by Kevin’s book review in this edition, that we’ve usually got quite a few piled up on the coffee table.
Speaking of coffee, go grab a cup and find a comfortable chair, we’ve got lots of great stories and tips to share with you this month.
In this edition, we have:
Book Review - Influence - Science and Practice - The Comic
Technique - Using stories and patterns to improve meetings
We hope that you enjoy reading Anecdotally. Feel free to pass this email on to your colleagues and friends if you think that they would enjoy it too.
Please contact us with your comments, suggestion and ideas.
Influence - Science and Practice - The Comic
- by Nadja Baer, Robert Cialdini and Nathan Lueth
I often get asked which books I would suggest for people who are interested in learning more about how to influence behaviour change. I suggest Influencer, Switch or even Changing Minds.
However, there is one I recommend first and foremost, and it’s a must read for anyone interested in influencing behaviour change, and that is Robert Caildini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. First published in 1984, this book is a classic. It’s been listed on the New York Times Business Best Seller List, Fortune Magazine has it in their ‘75 Smartest Business Books’ and it was included in ‘50 Psychology Classics’ alongside works by Freud, Jung and Pavlov. It has sold over two million copies.
Robert Cialdini has spent his entire career researching the science of influence earning him the title ‘godfather of influence’ and is the most cited living social psychologist in the world today. It’s just a brilliant book.
One of the complaints I’ve heard from a couple of business leaders I’ve suggested this book to is there is just too much to take in. There is a lot of text, not a lot of visuals, and its not the shortest book in the world either. Busy leaders often want the key points, something they can easily digest and understand and do something with. They just haven’t got the time to read the full book.
In it dark forces seek to turn society into unthinking automatons by the use of weapons of mass influence, and Robert B. Cialdini becomes society’s best hope in combatting compliance professionals throughout the world. He “leads a team of special forces through a battleground filled with psychological sneak attacks designed to elicit pre-programmed responses from unknowing victims”.
It’s easy to read (a commute to work on a tram did for me), very informative, and an amusing summary of the six sources of influence Cialdini has identified. If an idea strikes you, or you have a desire to know more, you could then go back to the original, but this is a great place to start for busy people who don’t have or make a lot of time to read business books.
However, if you’re like me and just can’t get enough of this stuff, you might be interested in another book that has just been released on Cialdini’s work. Titled Six Degrees of Social Influence: Science, Application, and the Psychology of Robert Cialdini. Edited by Douglas T. Kenrick, Noah J. Goldstein and Sanford L. Braver, this is a series of chapters by various academics looking at the work of Cialdini and the impact he has had in the field of influence, persuasion and our understanding in how to change behaviour. Fascinating, but very academic, and about as far from the ‘easily accessible’ of the comic as you can get.
Whatever version you choose to read - the original, the comic or the academic summary - just make sure you read one. This book is too good not to.
Stories are great for revealing patterns of behaviour, and a lot of the work we do at Anecdote helps organisations to observe these patterns; to make sense of them; and to decide what to do (and what not to do) to change them.
We also believe that designing and conducting effective meetings and other group sessions, is a vital skill for leaders, and ultimately for business success.
These cards and the patterns that are represented on them (patterns such as Feedback, Inquiry, Listening and Story) express a shared wisdom underlying successful approaches to facilitation and dialog.
Understanding these patterns of behaviour can help build the expertise of those people who facilitate group sessions. It also helps participants become aware of things that may help or hinder meetings in a way that is less prescriptive than the all too common facilitation ‘recipe’. They also help make the invisible visible and encourage conversations around that.
I recently had the opportunity to use the deck when I lead a peer-learning workshop on ‘facilitation skills’. The objective was to listen to stories and observe these meeting patterns, to reveal what skilled facilitators and other participants do to make things work (or not). It was a lively and engaging session.
Here’s a brief outline of the activity I ran (based on an activity suggested in the booklet) :
Deal out the pattern cards randomly so each person has some of the cards.
Have someone tell a story about an event that was well-facilitated — what they experienced and some of the things that happened.
When someone notices one of their cards in the story, they place that card face down on the table.
Once the person telling the story has finished, invite each person who placed out a card to share why they chose to ‘play’ that card.
Repeat this activity a couple of times using stories of well facilitated and poorly facilitated events.
One thing to watch out for is participants analysing and problem solving rather than listening. The use of some simple guidelines will help  — you should write the following up on a whiteboard or flip chart and refer to them before getting started:
Don’t pass judgement on other people’s stories;
There are no right or wrong answers. If your experience differs from that of others in the session, please tell us your story;
Remember we are here to listen to each other’s experiences, not to deconstruct them.
The deck can also be used for other activities such as planning sessions, reflecting and debriefing on events, and providing guidance on process design. You can buy a copy of the deck, or download a free PDF copy.
— : The term ‘Pattern Language’ was originally coined by architect Christopher Alexander, who, together with five colleagues, published ‘A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction’ in 1977.
We have a whole swag of new projects to tell you about.
We’re running a ‘Making Strategies Stick’ program for a life insurance company, and several Storytelling for Leaders programs for a variety of organisations including a large member organisation in Queensland, a scientific organisation, and a major Australian Bank.
Exploring employee engagement for a division of a technical manufacturing organisation.
Working with a government organisation to disseminate the results of a three year research program aimed at establishing communities of practice on sustainability in 10 NSW councils.
Running a leadership program for one of our regular clients.
Upcoming Events that we're running or attending:
Shawn has a number of speaking engagements coming up including: Connected Enterprise 2012, the CEO Forum in Melbourne, the Gartner Group and KM Asia (both in Singapore).
Kevin is presenting at the Mater Educational National Leadership and Learning Conference in Brisbane
We also have our upcoming workshops in India, New Zealand and Thailand. Please see the ‘Breaking news’ section below to learn more about these events.
We remember what we feel. We also remember what we see, especially if it’s remarkable or makes us feel. We remember what surprises us and what excites us. It’s intuitive really but this little piece gives you a couple of practical ways to remember the stories we hear or read.
We remember what we feel. Next time you hear a story you want to remember just put yourself in the shoes of one of the characters and imagine what they’re feeling. Conjure up their emotions and get yourself into a similar state. Then move on to the other characters and do the same. Notice how what’s happening in the story affects your feelings. If you feel it, you’ll remember it.
We remember what we see, especially if it’s remarkable. Picture the story happening. It’s happening right in front of you. Imagine you’re the cinematographer. Notice the textures, the light, the colours. And notice how they make you feel. Take special note of what’s surprises you. You’ll remember what you see.
And finally, repetition is your friend. So tell the story. Notice how your audience responds as you tell it. Feel it as you tell it. See it as it unfolds. Live the story as best you can. You’re unlikely to forget it after three tellings.
We’ve all heard it. “That’s how we do things around here.” It brooks no argument and is a strong signal that changing the behaviour might be difficult. That is, of course, if you tackle the issue directly.
An alternative might be to use this little story that was told by a taxi driver as I travelled from Coffs Harbour to Bellingen last week. The cabbie had worked as a car salesman for Toyota in a previous life. Apparently they got lots of sales training and Tom Hopkins from the US did some of the training. Tom had told his class about a family experience.
A few years ago I met my future mother-in-law for the first time. She was preparing a roast dinner. As she readied the lamb to go into the oven, I watched her cut off the shank and throw it in the bin. She then placed the tray in the oven. I was bewildered. I asked why she did it and the reply was "we always do that." I didn't say anything else as I didn't want to make a scene, especially as this was the first time I had met her. A year or so later, my new wife was preparing a lamb roast. Just as her mother had done previously, my wife removed the shank and disposed of it. Unable to contain myself, I asked why she had done that. "We've always done that" she replied. "But why?" I asked. "I don't know. That's what our family have always done" was her answer. Whenever we would have a lamb roast the same thing would happen. Years later we were visiting my wife's grandmother in her home where she had lived for nearly 50 years. She was preparing a lamb roast. I watched her remove the shank and throw it in the bin before placing the tray in the oven. Unable to contain myself I said "forgive me, I don't mean to be rude, but can you tell me why you did that?" "Of course I can" she said. "This old house has only got a tiny oven and I can't fit the entire roast in with the shank still attached."
Coincidentally, the very next day I was working with a group and someone said “we’ve always done it that way” and couldn’t explain why when I asked. The ‘lamb roast’ story helped him reconsider his position.
Using the camera on your mobile phone is a very simple way to improve your productivity. It can give you a photographic memory.
It’s more than likely your mobile phone is with you most of the time, meaning you have the camera right there when you need it. Here’s some ways your mobile phone camera can help improve your productivity.
Reduce the clutter – Lose the scrap of paper, back of the napkin diagram or scribbled post-it note. Instead of packing your wallet or pockets, snap a quick pic and dispose of the clutter.
Whiteboards – I do all of my thinking and planning on our office whiteboard. I really struggle to get my thoughts clear without getting them ‘out’ in this way. When I have my thoughts clear on how things fit together, or what needs to be done, I use to sit down and studiously write these up afterwards. I now simply take a picture, which gets automatically added to my photo stream, and then use this picture to remind me of what needs to be done, or how I wanted to structure a presentation or a proposal.
Receipts – When on the go, you can use your phone camera to scan paper receipts into PDF. There are many great apps out there that do this. I personally use JotNot Scanner Pro for iPhone.
Hotel rooms – If you are doing a lot if travel it can often be difficult to remember which room you’re on. “Is it 613, or was that last night’s Hotel?” The fastest and simplest way to help you remember is to snap a quick photo of your hotel room door number. You can also use the same approach for a pic of your rental car, or even where you parked.
Details for a to do – If you need specific information for a todo, take a picture of the relevant information. For example, if I need a prescription to order a refill, I will take a picture of the bottle before I leave home. Then I have the information with me when I am ready to to go into the chemist. I’ve also found this is fantastic if your other half asks you to pick something up from the supermarket. Before taking a simple pic, I came home so many times with the wrong kind of sugar, or flour or cream. Take a quick pic, and there is no problems at all in finding the right one.
Cords, connections and wires – If you’re working on computers or stereo equipment, it can be very helpful to snap a quick pic of where all the cords and wires are plugged in. A visual reminder is much better when trying to put everything back together.
We’re excited to announce that we’ll be running a number of workshops and events across the Asia Pacific region in the coming months. We’re really looking forward to making new friends and sharing our ideas.
Influencing change workshop - Auckland, NZ
Kevin will be in Auckland to run our Influencing change with the natural power of stories workshop on the 1st November.
This workshop is for leaders who need to make change happen and want to learn how to use stories to diagnose what’s really going on, trigger new stories that inspire action and design initiatives that really engage employees in acting their way into a new way of thinking.
Storytelling Workshops in New Delhi, India
Shawn and Mark are visiting India in late September and will be running two of our workshops in the New Delhi district:
Storytelling to influence, engage & persuade on the 25th September; and
Influencing change with the natural power of stories on the 26th September.
The Origins Asia Pacific Business Narrative Conference - Bangkok University, Thailand
Shawn and Patrick Lambe of Straits Knowledge are convening the Origins Asia Pacific Business Narrative Conference on 4–5 October.
The aim of Origins is to foster the practice of business storytelling and narrative techniques in the Asia Pacific region and to build awareness among government agencies and corporations of the power of storytelling and narrative for business.
To find out more about any of these events and to register please go to our Eventbrite page.