When folks in business circles extol the virtues of ‘storytelling,’ they generally refer to the impact that a well-told story can have on an audience. The praise of story generally goes something like this:
‘Storytelling is the single best tool we have to transfer our ideas to another person. Stories inform, illuminate, and inspire.’ (Carmine Gallo on Inc.)
I certainly won’t argue with that because, frankly, it’s true. It also misses about 90 percent of the power storytelling has to connect, build community, and bring greater alignment to teams, companies, and families.
The key lies in distinguishing between ‘story’ as a product and ‘storytelling’ as a process.
Recently, I had the chance to take a class with the wonderful Doug Lipman. If you’ve ever searched for books about the art of performance storytelling, you’ve probably seen some of his work. He gets at the distinction through a simple metaphor:
Imagine a rubber duck race at a county fair. There are only three rules:
**I recently had the chance to spend a week at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It was a beautiful experience filled with challenge, learning, and expansion. This is one Thing that Happened.**
I start to freak out the moment that the door of the sweat lodge closes.
The lodge itself is a small, wooden structure covered in blankets. There’s a depression in the center to hold heated rocks. At the moment, it’s filled with fifteen or so stones of various sizes that have been sitting next to a large fire for a couple of hours. Even with the door open, it has gotten hot.
Door, by the way, is overstating the case a bit. It’s actually a flap of blankets and a weighted tarp.
With the door open, the lodge is dim and warm. Comfortable even.
When the flaps come down, darkness descends. The space becomes stuffy and oppressive.
I’ve never thought of myself as claustrophobic. I’ve explored caves, crawled through underground tunnels, and snorkeled through tight caverns filled with rushing water with only slight anxiety. But there’s something about this that feels different.
The problems of poverty, disease, and environmental decay cannot be solved merely by the use of more and more scientific technology. Technological fixes usually turn out to be a jumble of procedures that have unpredictable consequences and are often in conflict with natural forces. Indeed, technological magic is not much better than primitive magic in dealing with the fundamental issues of human existence, and in addition, it is much more destructive.
–Rene Dubos, 1967
At a recent conference billed as an exploration of the intersection of Social Impact and Exponential Technologies, a prominent tech luminary spoke on the increasing incidence of depression and how technology will be essential to dealing with it.
She walked us through data showing that depression is projected to increase several-fold in the next decade. Other data laid out the developed world’s current capacity to treat depression. There was a clear and growing gap. We simply will not have the resources to handle the epidemic.
We must, the speaker said, find a way to increase our capacity to serve those grappling with depression. It’s not possible to train enough therapists in time to offer support. Fortunately, exponential technology, specifically adaptive intelligence, can help.
Currently, those working with depression have limited options for getting support. Almost all of them involve having to find and vet a therapist, go to therapy consistently, and/or get a prescription medication. With adaptive intelligence, help could be as close as an app on your phone.
The speaker walked us through a use case. Someone feels unmotivated, disconnected, and depressed. They log on to a secure (much emphasis was placed on ‘secure’) app and are greeted by an adaptive Artificial Intelligence that approximates warmth and curiosity. With a few questions customized to inspire reflection and sharing, the AI triages users.
Some people may only need a bit of space for reflection. For them, the AI provides the necessary level of support.
Others may require more intensive support. The AI detects this and links them to a trained therapist for a consultation.
This technology driven solution solves for the problem of capacity. Exponential technology saves the day.
I listened to the talk with a growing sense of dread and frustration in my gut.
The world, and people’s awareness of themselves in it, is changing at a rapid clip, yet many organizations still adhere to an outdated model of culture based on traditional economic logic. This logic assumes that employees act purely out of self interest and incentivises performance based largely on salary and bonuses.
More and more, this no longer works. Especially with younger team members.
The mismatch between employee values and organizational culture results in disengagement. Employees may get stuck in a rut, show decreased motivation, develop tense relationships, and stop performing at their potential.
Conventional responses such as, on the one hand, team building retreats, happy hours, and perks become less effective. As do, on the other hand, tighter oversight and control.
So What Do We Do?
By connecting people with a higher sense of purpose, a feeling of belonging, and cultivating strong interpersonal connection, organizations can inspire their people to bring greater energy, creativity, and dedication to their work. The type of ‘higher purpose’ necessary is separate from economic exchanges or financial bottom lines. Rather, it is aspirational, helping each person working within the organization see how their work contributes to a broader goal, mission, or movement.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.