An Introduction

Just about ten years ago I was co-facilitating a training session for a large high-tech company in Paris. While the participants were engaged in an assignment, three or four of my co-facilitators and I found ourselves at the back of the room discussing storytelling. I shared the “Story Spine”, a structure borrowed from improvisational theatre that helps people create well-made stories. Others shared their own tips and techniques. Within 15 minutes, we had a revelation. Storytelling was a wonderful tool for communication and learning!

Duh.

We were, of course, not the first people to realize this. There were books on the topic, and a whole field of “Narratology” which studied story and its power. When I presented at the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) conference later that year on the use of story in training settings, there were plenty of participants at the ready not only with enthusiastic support but with references, ideas and experiences of their own.

Still, in 1999, the idea of using storytelling in organizations (especially if one called it "storytelling") leaned toward the wacky. Not so now: Storytelling is used regularly as a tool for knowledge sharing, content retention, culture-building, motivating others, vision setting and strategic planning. There are many, many books on the subject. Many, many speakers and trainers focusing on and “teaching” the topic.

Why?

Story is such a useful tool, because as Jerome Bruner, the cognitive psychologist says, “Story IS meaning.” It is the way we make sense of the world. It is our inner roadmap, showing us both our destination and our path. Any time we take bits of data - sensory, intellectual, remembered – and put them together, we are creating story. When we teach storytelling, we are merely making conscious a process we all engage in all the time.

So what do we at Kopco bring to the field? We are improvisers, actors and playwrights, in addition to being trained organizational consultants and trainers. That means:

1. We have philosophies and techniques to exercise the creative and narrative muscles. In these “pages” we will share ideas for exercising your own storytelling skills and using storytelling in your training and team environments.

2. We do not believe in “scripts” but in skills. Having one, well-crafted story is fine; having the ability to consciously weave meaning out of whatever data presents itself in the moment is truly powerful.

3. We do believe that EVERYONE possesses the power to tell great stories. I nearly lost a job recently, because when I was asked by a client to name a “really good” storyteller that I had worked with, I hemmed and hawed. What I realized later was that we don’t think of it that way. If you really believe that storytelling is innate and that we are doing it all the time, then distinguishing really GOOD storytellers is misleading. We ask instead: was that an “effective” story in that particular moment, for that particular audience, with that particular objective in mind?

Don’t get me wrong: we want our stories to be compelling and entertaining and memorable. We want them to have meaning. It is simply that we believe that meaning can only be judged by what happens between the audience and the teller. That storytelling magic is created in the moment, in the relationship.

We look forward to an ongoing conversation, complete with stories, activity-sharing, questions and dilemmas. Join us!