Storytelling 
Passport to the 21st Century
John Seely Brown, Steve Denning, 
Katalina Groh, Larry Prusak: 
Some of the world's leading thinkers
explore the role of storytelling in the world

 I Introduction to storytelling I John Seely Brown on science I Steve Denning on change I Katalina Groh on video
Larry Prusak on organization I Discussion I | Contact us | Bibliography on storytelling

Why storytelling at this particular time?
Our present age is full of surprises

For the caveman, the world was a strange and unexpected place. Storytelling around campfires enabled the village to pool information about the baffling problems that faced the village, why the wolves were attacking or why the crops failed, or why the weather was so harsh or dry or wet, and so on. As we began to master these things over the last few couple of 
thousand years, we started to feel as though we understood what was going on. Now once again, the 
world is becoming turbulent and things are, once again, looking unexpected. Hence we feel the urge to sit 
around a conceptual campfire and swap stories and this very old technology of storytelling resonates with us yet again. 

   Storytelling rebuilds authenticity: There has long been a concern that, born as original individuals, how is it that we die as copies? Today the concerns are sharper than ever. The molds that abstract concepts are a key ingredient in the phenomenon. Storytelling can rebuild authenticity by enabling the speaker not simply to recite abstractions formulated by others and articulate stories that represent the speakerís unique creation. Developing skills at storytelling enables individuals be trustworthy, real, original, unique. The storyteller is authentic. 
     Itís about re-connecting the speaker with the spoken:  Written language brought tremendous benefits, but there was a downside. Writing separates the speaker from the spoken. The advantage of writing was portability. The disadvantage was that the author of the words often became uncertain, even a blur. Initially, when it was clearer who wrote what, this wasnít such a problem. Today we are inundated with anonymous words, whose source is unknown. Deep down, we are concerned about the blur. Oral storytelling reconnects the speaker with the spoken. Living voice is connected to living reception in a way that responds to some of our deepest desires to be connected.
    Itís about re-connecting the knower with the known:  As a child we learn some things through direct apprehension. As abstract concepts start being drummed into us around the age of eight, we acquire knowledge from others, knowledge that we donít have first-hand experience of ourselves, but which we are told to take on faith from others. As an increasing proportion of our knowledge comes from others, which is often in direct conflict with our direct sensory apprehension (e.g. the earth revolves around the sun), we become disconnected with the bases for our knowledge of the world. Storytelling helps re-establish that connection by linking knowledge with the specific context in time and space in which it arose. 
     Itís about a technology with wide and deep appeal. Storytelling is something we start to master at the age of two, both as a teller and listener of stories. Itís something we have done for thousands of years. It may even be hard-wired in our brains as one of the things that we have an innate capacity to do. 
    Itís about reversing the conventional order of things: The conventional wisdom is that people who interact on the lowest level talk about other people; on the next level people talk about things; and on the highest level of interaction, they talk about ideas. The pursuit of storytelling involves setting aside this thinking as prejudice and recognizing that storytelling is the way we learn most things about the world. Example.
    Itís about mastering story patterns not finding panaceas:  Storytelling doesnít solve all problems. It is not a panacea, but it does enable us to do things that abstract analysis cannot. 
    Itís about understanding underlying story functions and structures. This book is not about the surface meaning of the stories but rather the use to which stories can be put and the relationship that the structure of the story has to the use to which it will be put. 
    Itís about developing storytelling technique, not aping preset procedures: Although the book does offer some simple shortcuts to constructing powerful stories, the book cannot only provide a container. The content has to come from the storyteller who can improve ability to do this through the development of storytelling technique. 
   Itís about the activity of storytelling, not the artefact of story. The book is mainly about the art of oral storytelling, not the furnishing of written stories. Storytelling in writing operates by different rules and requires different skills. .
    Itís about deep meaning of storytelling, not a mere veneer of anecdote. An anecdote is often used to refer to a story that is told in a lackluster fashion. The same story told with purpose and style can have a much larger impact. 
   Itís about listening to the audience as much as being listened to: Effective storytelling is an interactive process and cannot be accomplished successfully without a strong ability to listen to the audience, and adjust the storytelling as the story performances evolves. 
   Itís about sparking creativity not giving instructions: Ultimately, the storytellerís performance will depend on whatís within, the spirit, the energy, the soul, the force of the storyteller. This book can only spark what is already there. In the process, storytellers gets to know themselves. .
   Everyone wants their story told.  As Hamlet is dying, his last request to Horatio is that his story be told. He articulates the wish in all of us. Storytelling enables us not only to tell stories, but also to tell our story. 
Books and videos on storytelling 
*** In Good Company : How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work
by Don Cohen, Laurence Prusak (February 2001) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Social Life of Information, by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid
(February 2000) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Springboard : How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations
by Stephen Denning (October 2000) Butterworth-Heinemann 
*** The Art of Possibility, a video with Ben and Ros Zander : Groh Publications (February 2001)
Copyright © 2001, Stephen Denning, 
The views expressed on this website are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of any person or organization
Site optimized in 800x600: webmaster CR WEB CONSULTING
Best experienced with