Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How to Create an Organization's Story

One of my storytelling colleagues was asked by a board of directors to help them tell their organization's story. It is an amazing story but they were unclear how to convey this story to themselves, their members and others. My storytelling colleague – who does not work in organizational storytelling – asked for advice. Here is the preliminary advice I provided. I would like to hear yours.

Think in terms of multiple, easily tellable stories (rather than one big or complex one). A good elevator story (I mean this literally – that is, a story that can be completed on the way to the lunch room) that is memorable and repeatable will do a better job than one that requires a well-rehearsed professional storyteller.

For example, here's a story from The Ultimate LEGO Book that brings home the company motto, “Only the best is good enough.”

When Godtfred, son of LEGO’s founder Ole Kirk, tried to save company money by finishing a shipment of toy ducks with two coats of paint instead of the usual three, his father told him: “Go and get the ducks immediately, give them their last coat of paint, repack them, and take them back to the station. And do it all yourself “ even if it takes you all night!”

Some ideas for eliciting stories from people in the organization:

  • How was the organization started. Who founded it, what obstacles were in the way, how were they overcome.
  • Tell me about a challenging situation. What did you learn about the organization and the people involved. What came of it.
  • Tell me about a situation that caused you to feel proud about the organization and the people involved in it.

Some sources:

Sandor (Sandy) Schuman
Stories at Work®