Let me tell you a story!

How to Spin a Good Yarn

Ever tried to get someone to change their beliefs or behaviour?  Often, the more we try, the more frustrating it can be.  This is where stories can be so effective as they depersonalise the personal: meaning and consequence ring out with a well chosen anecodote. You can pluck into a story with a pitch, presentation or when giving an appraisal.  In fact, stories generally enrich communication.

To come up with a tale to tell that strikes a chord, firstly, think why you’re telling your tale.   Here are some reasons:

If you’re thinking “Nope, still got no stories related to any of these!”   Then, just steal them: attribute them to someone else (and be careful to change details if you need to keep confidentiality).

Stephen Denning, author of the ‘The Springboard: How storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organisations’, told a short and powerful anecdote as Head of Knowledge Management at the World Bank.   He’d been banging his head up against a brick wall, trying to influence the spread of knowledge and know-how of the World Bank to create global change.   It’s only when he dumped the data, pie charts and graphs to tell a short personal story about a health worker in Kamana, Zambia that he started to create the change he needed in The World Bank.  The health worker was struggling to find a solution for treating malaria.   In this tiny and remote rural town the health worker logged on to the website of the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and found an answer.

‘This true story happened, not, as if in a fantasy, in 2015, but in June 1995…..but the most striking aspect of this picture is this: [The World Bank] doesn’t have its know-how and expertise organised so that someone like the health worker in Zambia can have access to it.   But just imagine if it did!’

And all the hard facts and PowerPoint pie charts couldn’t beat the impact of that tale that sparked the beginning of the journey into global knowledge management in the World Bank. And that’s the power of a good yarn

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