Katharine Hansen, PhD – A Storied Career Blog (Part B)

This is the 2nd of two posts about her… to read the first go here….

Katharine Hansen
Bio: Katharine (Kathy) Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator
, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits its newsletter QuintZine, and blogs about storytelling at A Storied Career. Kathy, who earned her PhD from Union Institute & University authored Tell Me About Yourself (April 2009), Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates, A Foot in the Door, Top Notch Executive Interviews (fall 2009), Top Notch Executive Resumes; and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills.

4. How do you describe the benefits of storytelling to other people in the business world?

I call upon the gurus who evangelized storytelling long before I did — people like Annette Simmons and Steve Denning and others, early pioneers who wrote books that have become the foundation for current business narrative/organizational storytelling.

Simmons characterizes the effectiveness of stories in business in her landmark book, The Story Factor (Chapters 2 and 5):

* Story creates power.
* Story is a form of mental imprint.
* Story is a dynamic tool of influence because it gives people enough space to think for themselves.
* In a complex environment, people listen to whomever makes the most sense — whomever tells the best story (Simmons’s followup book is titled Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins.)
* Story makes sense of chaos and gives people a plot. People need story to organize their thoughts and make sense of things.
* Story invites people to creatively re-frame their dilemmas, while rules alienate people who want to think for themselves.
* Change people’s stories and you change their behavior.
* Story is like mental software that you supply so your listener can run it again using new input specific to the situation.
* Story is uniquely equipped to touch you and help you touch others in this place that cannot be understood, explained, or reduced to a flow chart.
* Story builds connections between you and those you wish to influence.
* Story helps the brain remember.

And from the Australian consulting firm, Anecdote:

* Stories reveal what’s really happening in your organization
* Stories inspire us to take action
* Stories stick in your mind much better than [bullet] points and clever arguments
* Stories connect us to a purpose and improve our performance
* Stories share and embed values

Finally, Marguerite Ganat very recently posted (http://www.talentculture.com/digital/the-chemistry-of-storytelling/) this list rationales for story in business:

* We don’t just buy a product, we buy the story behind it.
* We don’t just join a company, we join because of its story.
* We don’t just join a cause, we join the story behind it.
* We don’t just vote for a presidential candidate, we buy into his story of what the future holds.
* We don’t just follow the leader, we buy in to the story behind her vision.
* We don’t learn best by hearing a theory or concept, we learn best by hearing stories that demonstrate the concept.
* We don’t just see a movie or read a novel, we lose ourselves in a good story.
* Based on the fact that we buy stories, it’s not the best product that will sell; it’s the product with the best story behind it. It’s not the best employer that attracts the most candidates; it’s the one who knows how to tell a story through its employment brand.

5. How is applied storytelling different then performance storytelling or traditional storytelling?

I think storyteller Sean Buvala’s definition of storytelling provides a good starting point for answering this question. He writes:

“Storytelling is the intentional sharing of a narrative in words and actions for the benefit of both the listener and the teller.”… ‘intentional’ means that not everything we do is storytelling. Storytelling is a planned activity and process. ‘Narrative’ means what is being talked about has a beginning, middle, and end. ‘Sharing’ means that there is an audience in front of the teller which can be one person or thousands. ‘Benefit’ means both the listener and the teller leave the sharing of story as a changed person.”

So, in my mind, many types of storytelling that DO NOT fall into that definition can be classified as “applied storytelling.” (I should note that Sean would not agree; he feels that if a communication does not fall into his definition, it’s not storytelling. For example, he does not consider digital storytelling to be storytelling.) Storytelling that is missing one or more elements from Sean’s definition is still storytelling in my book, but it’s applied storytelling. Examples of applied storytelling include: organizational storytelling/business narrative, journaling/memoir writing, blogging, social media, digital/multimedia, transmedia storytelling, journalistic storytelling, visual storytelling, fictional storytelling, storytelling for movies and TV, comic-book storytelling, and more, including my personal crusade, storytelling in the job search. Not every bit of communication in these venues is storytelling, but storytelling is possible within these venues.

I once proposed that all storytelling can be broken down into just three purposes: storytelling for identity construction, storytelling for change, and storytelling for sense-making/learning. Even performance storytelling can fit into this rubric in that the audience changes from an un-entertained state to an entertained (or enlightened, moved, etc.,) state.

Storytelling for identity construction can range from storytelling in social media to storytelling to establish a brand identity for products and services. Storytelling for identity construction is also what I advise job-seekers to do to make themselves stand out memorably to employers.

Storytelling for change is often the impetus behind business narrative — using story to help workers cope with and buy into organizational change.

Storytelling for sense-making is what we automatically turn to when we seek to make sense of unexpected, tragic, or confusing events. Similarly, storytelling is effective for learning because stories are so good at illustrating concepts and making them memorable (Look back at Annette Simmons’s statement that “Story helps the brain remember.”)

6. Given the detailed exploration you have done of the applied storytelling community. Break down for us the different schools of thought that exist currently in the business world relative to applied storytelling – where do your various guests fall in these fields?

This is a very big question, and I turned to the no-cost e-book I compiled, Storied Careers: 40+ Story Practitioners Talk About Applied Storytelling, looking for an an answer. Or, I should say, a partial answer, because I am not attempting to be comprehensive here; I’m sure I’m leaving practitioners and their schools of thought out. I hope they’ll forgive me and/or comment on this entry.

Gabrielle Dolan, co-founder and director of Australian consulting firm One Thousand & One, supports helping to embed storytelling into an organization’s culture: “We normally work with clients on two levels,” she says. “Firstly we normally skill the leaders in organizational storytelling through workshops and then help them embed this skill. What we mean by that is finding ways that they can continually find and share stories and apply their new skill of not only storytelling but story listening.”

Leadership consultant Susan Luke’s focus is corporate mythology, and she calls herself a corporate mythologist: “To my knowledge,” she notes, “I am the only ‘corporate mythologist’ using that title. I coined the descriptor in trying to put some definition around who I am and what I do. Corporate mythology has two aspects — the stories of/about the organization (history, philosophy, values, vision) and the stories of the individuals who make up the organization.

Author Cynthia Kurtz upholds the idea of respecting the integrity of the raw story:
“Raw stories of personal experience are far superior to crafted stories for the things I
care about when working with stories,” she says. “For the purposes of advertising products and services, delivering specific purposeful messages, and entertaining people, crafted stories are often (but not always) best. But for the purposes of helping people learn, think, make decisions, get new ideas, grow, and get along, I’ve found that there is nothing better than a raw story.”

Authors/speakers/consultants Lori Silverman and Karen Dietz evangelize the notion that storytelling is a critical skill that should be taught in business schools. Storyteller Sean Buvala agrees with this sentiment, saying, “Corporate folks must take this storytelling skill seriously. To really be an effective corporate storyteller, you need to be devoted to being the best storyteller you can be.”

Speaker and consultant Thaler Pekar emphasizes story sharing rather than storytelling.

Your question really got me thinking about developing a taxonomy of applied-storytelling schools of thought. I guess the foregoing is just a little taste of that.



1 Comment

  • By Rosa Maria Durand, November 30, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

    Great, great, and great, thank you my hermanito( little brother), im so happy to discover your incredible web page.

    see you, in my images, and in my sounds, and in my voice.

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