Stories In Action
On June 10th I attended Stories In Action hosted by SparkNow at the Museum Of London – a bit of a hidden gem tucked away on London Wall. I heard about the event via The Gurteen Knowledge Letter one of the first newsletters I ever signed up to. David Gurteen is a freelance Knowledge Manger and coach, ex International Czar for Lotus in the 1980s, founder of the Gurteen Knowledge Community and creator of the Knowledge Cafe. He is passionate about the place of conversation in the workplace and it’s effect and impact on knowledge, how it is used and interpreted and what becomes of it so it was no surprise to see the SparkNow event listed on his newsletter.
You might guess from reading my blog that I am a bit of a storyteller. It is also a very important element of the coaching and mentoring work I do. I find that when people are guided into the story telling space; boundaries disappear, true heart desires emerge and unique creativity is displayed as we all join the dots in different ways. The Sparknow pitch drew me in ‘Stories aren’t just for kids. They have a powerful role to play in organisations as a source of insight, as a vehicle for sharing knowledge, as a way of generating energy and enthusiasm, as a means of engagement’ and their invitation sealed my fate – ‘We’d love you to participate in something that will be part experience, part challenge, part exploration, part instruction – whatever we make of it together‘. This was a ticketed event but with an option to donate the decision to attend was an easy one to make.
It is no small challenge to bring together a disparate group of people to engage and explore but the choice to hold the event at the Museum Of London was inspired. The Museum had engaged Sparknow to work with Caroline MacDonald and Georgina Young of the curation staff, to develop a new content creation framework. This case study was the thread that joined all the strands of this presentation together. I loved the registration panel; no need for a desk or staff you just looked for your name on the brown paper grid on the wall, ticked that you were present and wrote up your own badge. Brown paper was the order of the day from the origami orientation booklets to table clothes that begged to be covered in questions, quips, comments and wisecracks. No time was lost getting the eighty or so participants conversing with a North, South, East & West ice breaker and this engagement was further enhanced by the creation of six different streams of organisational story telling of thirty minutes each. We could pick to attend three out of the six streams on offer. It is amazing how it concentrates the mind to choose. All of the pitches were intriguing but in the end I opted for Philip Gibson‘s Quality of Mind, Iain Christie’s Listening Stories Out Of People and Fiona Hiscock’s Weaving Patterns From Hidden Threads.
Quality Of Mind: ‘People learn by thinking for themselves’ ~ Philip Gibson. A fascinating presentation on the use of stories to heighten awareness and change behaviours at a global manufacturer. People become inured and immune in some way to pronoucements from on high not matter how carefully extolled. By collating stories from across the business anonymous scenarios could be created for dissemination. Framing up these scenarios around discussion of open ended questions led to quality behaviours becoming more integrated and embodied.
Listening Stories Out Of People: Iain Christie is a curious combination of Barrister, mediator and actor. I couldn’t think of anyone better to put together this oral history project of the The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, one of the four inns of court which have existed since the 14th Century. Hallowed ground indeed and it looks like the oral histories may be wrapped into into that hallowed space as the powers that be have had a change of heart about making these stories public; and that of course is a story in itself. The snippets we heard were an insight into history and hearts; The Inner Temple may be trying to hide it’s feet of clay but what a shame to deny the World the human, humorous hearts that we heard on tape.
Weaving Patterns From Hidden Threads: I love a bit of technology me and technology that collects and patternises (is that a real word?) stories I found fundamentally thrilling. Ancedotes are the life blood of our lives, easy to relate and share; the grumpy bus driver, the helpful teenager who pushes your car out of the traffic, the next door neighbour who always needs that cup of sugar just when you are having visitors, the friendly doctor who makes whatever you were worried about not so terrifying. SenseMaker(R), an app used to design story capture campaigns and track experience, demonstrates the powerful patterns that emerge from pulling stories together around a particular theme. Understanding patterns is a first step to directing change; is the grumpy bus driver just one individual or is it an endemic problem, is the helpful teenager a rarity or confined to particular areas, how can doctors become more friendly and able to put people at ease? This is a great app just waiting for people to develop some uses. Far more fun to engage with than the traditional dry crusts of the questions and answer surveys that are currently doing the rounds.
The finale of the event was to decide which of the streams would receive seed funding raised through the day’s ticket sales to pursue further research. For a change of scene we convened to the Modern London section of the museum with Mary Quant, Doctor Martins and a bit of The Savoy for the vote. The question raised by The Museum Of Lies stream, which I did not attend, won the election with the question ‘How can lies and curating lies shift thinking in the boardroom?’ On that note we repaired to the London Wall Kitchen & Bar for a civilised couple of glasses and some more of that never ending stuff called conversation.
Anne K. Scott is an imagination technologist, her work to teach, facilitate and deliver innovation for individuals and business. She is the creator of FindYourMojo a FREE iPHone productivity app. If you are interested in what intuitive coaching can do for you or your business please do contact me. I support clients all over the world.