Sunday, January 23, 2011

Story for Business Nay Saying.

First off, go take a look at a very good article by Kathy Hansen on her blog: "Not Everyone Thinks Applied Storytelling is a Good Idea." (Note: Dr. Hansen consistently supplies excellent commentary on story and storytelling and should be on your "surfing" list.)

I agree with the issue she's presenting and have added my comments:

How about this article on "10 Things Storytelling Won't Do for Your Business."

You can find it at:

Backlash is to be expected at the moment. Sadly, we have gobs of storybiz philosophers out there right now that can comment eloquently about the "why" of story but few comment well about the "how" of story. What we are left with is a pile of people who are energetic about the concept but have no way to really make it go. I've actually seen business people (who should know better) breathlessly say (or Twitter or Facebook) that we have to "believe in" the story for it to work. They're using the word "believe" in the same way that Peter Pan tells the audience that clapping your hands and believing will bring Tinkerbell back to life. No, you don't have to "believe" your story but it must be true, it must be honest and it must have relevance. Story is not cod-liver oil or any panacea.

Another issue is that folks are replacing facts with story. Story frames the facts, it does not replace them. Story carries Truth- not replaces it. For example, there is a reason that XYZ company lost money last year and they need to look at those figures. What story can do is frame the experiences of loss and recovery. As another example, if you have bullies in your elementary school, the simple act of storytelling alone will not solve the problem. Done wrong it will actually make it worse.

I am pre-reading yet another book on biz storytelling before it comes out this Spring. It's full of stories but has no content. Lots of people are going to pick it up and be very disappointed. Those folks will put the book down and abandon storytelling as fluffy cocktail-hour bragging- when it could have made a huge difference in their organizations done right and in context.

I'm pro applied story and its various deliveries, but I am deeply aware that the message often sounds like a 1970's peace-and-love TV commercial to many folks. You'd like to buy the world a Coke? That's great and your vision inspires me. Now, how are we going to pay for it?

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.