Storytelling

Storytelling

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Term2.png STORYTELLING
Communication tool used in organizations, allowing individuals to share their knowledge and personal understanding with others through inspirational narratives. Telling a story is a deceptively simple and familiar process, a way to evoke strong emotions and insights. The language used is authentic (experience, not fact oriented); it is the narrative form that most people find interesting and attractive. Storytelling has existed for thousands of years as a means of exchanging information and generating understanding. Using it as a deliberate tool for sharing knowledge within organizations is quite recent, but growing rapidly. Working with stories in organizational settings is more complicated, however, they provide powerful mechanisms for aid reflection, build communities, transfer practical learning or capitalize experiences. Storytelling has numerous advantages over more traditional communication techniques. It enables articulation of both emotional and factual content, allowing expression of tacit knowledge that might otherwise be difficult to share. Additionally, storytelling can increase the potential for meaningful knowledge sharing; learning is more likely to take place and be passed on by grounding facts in a narrative structure.


Potential applications of storytelling are:

  • Breaking down barriers between multidisciplinary or multi-cultural teams
  • Team or community-building exercises
  • Workshop warm-ups
  • Trips debriefings and review
  • Project reviews
  • Monitoring systems
  • Entertainment and fun [1]


A story can be initially designed on a template, which can facilitate the creation of a structure to all kinds of events, helping access the story that ties them together. A template should only be considered as an intermediate step, to help collect facts, events, and memories. After, put the template aside and speak/write from the heart.


Toolkit.png Storytelling Techniques

General Guidelines

Choice of the story

  • Types of story:
    • Folktale, meaning a story from oral tradition;
    • Literary Tale, by a single author, made for publishing;
    • Real Life Story, from history and personal experiences.
  • Characteristics of the story
    • It should be simple, with a single, clearly defined theme, and powerful;
    • It should be in response to a demand, and timed with specific opportunities;
    • It should be vivid, picturesque, have a nice style, pleasing sounds and rhythm;
    • It should provide a solution to both immediate and broader problems;
    • It should be targeted at people with the power to make decisions and change things;
    • It should play to what is already in people’s mind.


Preparation

  • Read the story several times.
  • Analyze the words, thinking about the pictures you want the listener to see and the mood you want to create.
  • Research background and cultural meaning of the story.
  • Learn the story as a whole and not in fragments, without memorizing it.
  • Map out the story line:
    • Beginning: When the characters are introduced;
    • Body: In which the plot gets to the climax;
    • Resolution: Where the conflicts are solved.
  • Characteristics of the narration:
    • Emphasis
    • Repetition
    • Transition
    • Pause
    • Proportion
  • Tricks to keep the attention:
    • Involvement or participation of listeners;
    • Distinct changes in pace, voice or mood;
    • Unusual or unexpected twist in narrations.


Techniques

There are different techniques to conduct a storytelling session; two are illustrated below, using storytelling in different ways:

Technique 1

  • Introduce the workshop and the theme for storytelling. It's important to provide the participants a context on which they can reflect and that permits them to select the story they are going to tell.
  • Make participants reflect on a story and think about details of before, during and after.
  • Ask participants to form pairs and to share the story they have prepared.
  • Ask the participant who was listening to his/her partner's story to interview the partner and fill the Story Template as a guide, so that as much detail as possible is collected.
  • Form bigger groups of two pairs, where each participant will tell the story that was previously told by the partner.
  • Make participants reflect on common points and contradictions of the stories.
  • Ask each small group to present their findings and conclusions to the whole group.


Technique 2

  • Divide the participants in groups of 6.
  • Ask the participants to think of a concrete and specific story, related to the objective of the workshop or project.
  • Each participant has 90 seconds to tell his/her own story within the group.
  • When everyone has finished, ask the participants to recall the story that they consider more powerful and to remember who told that story.
  • Ask participants to change groups.
  • Ask them to tell their story again in 20 seconds, observing how it changes and improves in telling it again.
  • Repeat the task of thinking which story they liked the most and who told it.
  • Create new groups and go on with the exercise, in case there are many participants.
  • Ask everyone to remember the person who told the most powerful story, go to that person and put your hand on his/her shoulder. A network of people will form, revealing a few of high-impact stories.
  • Ask the people who told those stories to tell them again in front of the whole group.[2]


Job Aid

Word.png Storytelling Template

Pdf.png Storytelling Techniques


Link icon.png Web Resources
Link Content
Story guidelines Guidelines on how to write stories
Story Guide: Building bridges using narratives techniques This resource touches upon the issue of improving communication using narrative techniques that are detailed and explained. [3] It includes checklists, templates, examples and illustrations of how to tell a story.


References

  1. www.personneltoday.com (17 July 2008), www.ijea.org(17 July 2008); www.daretoshare.ch/en (19 July 2008), Ramalingam, B., Tools for Knowledge and Learning, odi, 2006
  2. www.anecdote.com (2 April 2008), www.eldrbarry.net (1 September 2008), www.daretoshare.ch (1 September 2008)
  3. Adapted text from "Story Guide: Building bridges using narratives techniques": Introduction.