Thursday, October 25, 2018

Guest post - Before anything, storytelling is a conversation

Readers: I don't think I've ever done this before, but I'd like to do it more often. This post was written by Juan Manuel Rodríguez Bocanegra of the Haki Storytelling blog. I am sure that you will find Juan Manuel's insights valuable.

Last year, I contacted Cynthia Kurtz and asked her to be a guest writer for the Haki Blog. After some back and forth E-mails, I finally published her piece “Why storytelling isn't enough”, then she kindly offered me the option of being a guest writer for her blog.

I was thrilled with her offer, and at first, I thought about translating an older piece titled “Storytelling as meditation.” However, I think that something happens with the rhythm of your pieces when you translate them to other languages, so it is always better to write, thinking on the language you are writing in it.

Having that in mind, I told Cynthia that I would think about a theme of mutual interest for her blog, and I hope I've found it; let's see where words take me/us, but enough intro, let's get down to the storytelling business.


Nowadays if you google the term “Storytelling,” you get about 80 million results of mostly anything: embedded questions, how to use it, how to tell a brand story, stories that sell, the importance of storytelling in business, storytelling for content marketing, and so on and so forth.

It's lovely to see, and I'm glad that we're giving storytelling the importance it deserves. This beautiful art is covering almost every aspect of our daily lives, and we're acknowledging how important it is for the evolution of the human species. The thing is that with all the hype around it, I think that sometimes we lose focus.

For me, and I and hope that for many of you, one of the most important values of storytelling is the chance that it gives us to become more human, and the multiple options it offers us to connect with other people at an emotional level that goes straight to the heart; also the advantage it has against cold facts, numbers, graphics and bullet points, that, as we know, have the battle lost when they compete against a sincere story.

For a long time, I've been wondering: What about if we see storytelling, before anything, as a conversation?

“One of the primary goals in everyday conversation is to tell a story that 
is thematically similar to the previous story. One way of having coherent and entertaining 
conversations is to take turns telling similar stories

—Melanie Green, Narrative Impact

Let's think about a real conversation in our lives, one in which we really want to establish contact with another human being; one in which what we say, we want it to be understood completely by our listener, without imposing our thoughts or views. A conversation in which we expect to tune our listener (s) into our same frequency, whether it is personal, or it refers to a community or to a business.

So, you start talking (telling stories) and depending on how much you care for your listener (audience) and how much have you prepared what you have to say, they will pay attention or would nod their heads, making you believe that your story is clear or important for them.

We must admit that we can devote ourselves to craft a story for a particular reason, let's say to increase brand awareness or sales of some certain product or service, but it's impossible for us to know how the story is going to behave and the effect it will have on our audience, once we share it with the world. We may have some ideas about it, and some may come true, but maybe some of our expectations will not be fulfilled.

Because remember, it's a conversation, and every time we have one, first, we need to have empathy with our listeners, and then we have to be open to certain, almost imperceptible, signs or cues that they give us, let's say body language, for example.

Bringing that to the world of corporate storytelling, it means that our stories are always evolving and that we have to be aware of sudden changes of the industry or market we work on, and how they affect our audience, in order to adjust them properly.

So my invitation for anyone who wants to work or is working with stories is to think of them as the perfect path to create a conversation. You could ask: "And what about my business needs?" You're right, your business objectives are something that good stories can help you achieve, but I firmly believe that if you start telling honest and sincere stories with the main objective of starting a conversation, everything that you're looking for will follow up sooner or later.

Don't give up if your stories don't work at first, keep working on them with your team, and have your story sensors open to the environment, to know how to tweak them properly, to start creating and having more real conversations.

Juan Manuel Rodríguez Bocanegra
Business Storyteller
Haki Storytelling

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Writing here and there

Lately I've been writing less here because I've been writing more there. On the PNI Institute blog, that is. So right now, if you want to read the new stuff I'm writing, go there.

Why am I writing more there? This year, in our monthly Zoom calls, we've been going through the purposes of participatory narrative inquiry, as described under "Why work with stories?" in Working with Stories. To prepare for the calls, I've been trying to write blog posts about each of the PNI purposes. I haven't managed to do it every month, but these links show what I've written so far, as well as our discussions.
These calls are yet to come (and hopefully to be written about):
  • November - Connecting people: Community building and maintenance with PNI
  • December - Helping people learn: Knowledge management and organizational learning with PNI
  • January - Enlightening people: Advocacy and education with PNI
  • February - Combinations of purposes
I'll post those links here later (or you could just go and look at the blog there). Calls take place at 2pm New York time on the second Wednesday of each month, here. Everyone is welcome to join us, and calls are recorded and posted as well.

Since my method in writing these posts is to just sit and wait for a while to see what ideas rise to the surface, the posts are starting to form a sort of update to WWS, in the sense of new things I've been thinking about lately with regard to the uses of PNI. So if you are interested to see where PNI is going right now, these posts and discussions might be interesting to you.