Q&A with a Story Guru: Lori Silverman, Part 2

See a photo of Lori, her bio, and Part 1 of this Q&A.

Q&A with Lori Silverman, Question 2

Q: In your article “The Five Sides of Story”, that appeared in Communication World magazine in January/February 2007, you describe “five practices surrounding the use of stories that bring results:”

  • how to find stories
  • how to dig into them to uncover hidden patterns and themes
  • how to select those stories that need to be reinforced
  • how to craft memorable stories
  • how to embody stories to positively affect attitudes, thoughts and behaviors.

What are your thoughts today on these five practices and their utilization in organizations?

A: I frequently reference these topics in presentations to audiences of several hundred people across a variety of industries and organizations. Prior to delivering these talks, I always interview a minimum of five attendees. Most do not understand the difference between an example, case study, anecdote, etc. and a story. What it tells me is that organizations that think they are using stories really are not doing so. Even when I look online at story examples that several organizations make public, most are descriptions of situations or profiles of people or companies. As a result, Karen Dietz and I have crafted a piece that speaks to the distinctions between story and other forms of narrative called Narrative Forms.

(first article in left-hand column).

The second thing that stands out for me in these interviews is that few, if any individuals are cued into applications of story beyond storytelling — both the crafting and the oral tradition of delivering a story. So, while some organizational story practitioners may be working with clients on other types of story practices, organizations as a whole and their leadership are not consistently practicing them. Even within the industry of story use in organizations, I am now of the opinion that most practitioners have not grown their own learning in these other areas.

As a result, I believe the real power of story has yet to be realized in organizational settings.