Telling a Story: The Pedagogics of Storytelling

When Maria Bolin started talking, she immediately got us spellbound. Using a low voice she told us the ancient story of Odysseus and the Horse of Troy. The conference room was hot, every chair occupied, but we listen carefully to her every word.

After ten minutes or so, Maria broke the spell by starting to talk about story-telling. Somewhat reluctantly we left the magic mode and listened to her telling us about the various archetypes for both stories and main characters. Her narrative also included examples from her own research. She retold one of the founding stories of the company where she worked, which made us understand some of its basic corporate values.

“When the first employee was hired, he came to the spartan office and realised that there was no desk for him. He asked one of the founders what to do and was told to bring a desk next day. He did so, but when he arrived the next day with the desk he was told it wasn’t needed any more. A customer had been signed and the employee was to go to there immediately to do the consulting job.”

Maria is a PhD student specialising in the use of story-telling in organisational change projects. We used to be colleagues when I worked at the Viktoria Institute. I have listened to her several times, and slowly it has dawned to me that the art of story-telling of course is best explained by examples.

Someone who has worked a lot with storytelling is Steve Denning. One kind of story that he has focused on is what he calls a springboard story. This is a story that enables a leap in understanding by the audience so as to grasp how an organization or community or complex system may change. I think I might add his books “The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations” and “Storytelling in Organizations” to my reading list…

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