Book review: The story factor

I believe, that the ability to tell a good story is one of the most important tools available to leaders (and remember: We’re all leaders). Stories have the ability to bring a point across without forcing the issue. Where rational arguments fail, stories can contain boths sides of a dilemma and can illuminate an interesting paradox without having to solve it. You might argue that stories open, where facts close.

“The story factor” by Annette Simmons is the best book on storytelling that I’ve read. It contains all the reasons why stories are good tools as well as a list of situations where you can use stories effectively (and how). Finally there’s a lot of info on how to find the good stories and how to tell them. And of course the book itself contains loads of stories, most of which are highly entertaining, and useful for many situations.

As an example, here’s a story that I heard recently, and immediately incorporated into the “happy at work” workshops. It’s the story of the ostrich who learned to fly. Normally ostriches can’t, and this ostrich wanted to share his new knowledge with all the other ostriches, so he arranged a flying conference in Africa. Other ostriches walked in from all over Africa, and over the course of a couple of days, he taught all of them to fly. Then on the last day, he stood and watched, as all the ostriches walked home.

I use this story to illustrate the gap between learning and action, and it illustrates the point in a funny and interesting way, without browbeating people about how difficult it is to translate learning into doing. It sets the stage perfectly for the “planning the future” part of the workshop.

Compared to one of the seminal works on storytelling, Stephen Denning’s “The Springboard”, Annette Simmons’ book is much more useful and contains more tips that will get you started as a storyteller. If you’re at all interested in the potential and practice of storytelling, this is the book for you.

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