Q&A with a Story Guru: Andrée Iffrig Q&A, Part 1

When I came across Andrée Iffrig this spring, I could not believe I had not previously heard of her and her work. I would characterize her approach to storytelling as possessing a certain gentleness and quietude. It is sane. humane, and gives me such a good feeling about the positive uses for storytelling in the workplace. She very kindly sent me a copy of her book, Find Your Voice at Work: The Power of Storytelling in the Workplace. And in the generous tradition of the storytelling community, the workbook that accompanies her book, workbook is a free download. I am also fascinated that her background is in architecture and design; in fact, a significant amount of her writing is about urban design. I am so happy to bring Andrée Iffrig to you in the Q&A series. This Q&A will run over the next five days.

Bio: (from the site, Suite101) Andrée Iffrig is a writer and award-winning graduate architect. She uses her broad background in environmental design and community development to investigate trends in architecture and urban design.

Andrée is the author of Find Your Voice at Work: The Power of Storytelling in the Workplace (Limegrass 2007) and co-author with Keith Seel of BEING A Governor: A Process for Board Development (Mt. Royal College 2006). Storytelling is a life-long love that finds its way into her professional speaking as well.

Writing for elemente design magazine, Andrée has interviewed some of the stars of the sustainable design movement, most recently Cameron Sinclair, TED winner and humanitarian; Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer-prise winning architectural critic for The New Yorker magazine; Bill Valentine, Chair of HOK, one of the world’s largest architectural and urban planning firms; and Alejandro Zaera-Polo, founder of Foreign Office Architects.

Never content with the status quo, Andrée is currently exploring what organizations can learn from the field of sustainable design. Her articles at Suite 101 celebrate outstanding examples of sustainability, critique corporate greenwashing and educate readers about sustainability principles that have stood the test of time. Listen to one of her presentations on innovation through sustainable design at Banff Park Radio.

In addition to her writing for Suite 101 and elemente, Andrée has contributed recently to Canadian Manager, Training Matters, Network and E-Source (publications of the Human Resources Institute of Alberta), Charity Village NewsWeek and Gift Planning in Canada.

Over the years, Andrée has received several awards, including a Medal from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada for her thesis project, a Ganesha award from the Faculty of Environmental Design at the Institute of Technology in Bandung, Indonesia, for her community development work, and recognition for her winning teams in corporate challenges at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Q&A with Andrée Iffrig, Questions 1 and 2:

Q: Are there any current uses of storytelling that repel you or that you feel are inappropriate?

A: I have been listening to stories in professional and personal settings for more than 20 years. That experience has led me to some firm convictions about the kind of stories that are productive and life-changing. It is with dismay that I read some of the commonly-accepted literature in the business community. Some of these corporate experts in storytelling are condescending to employees; reading their books, I have the impression that storytelling for them is about spin and marketing.

While storytelling can definitely be used for these purposes, I believe the future of organizations lies with employees who become accountable for creating workplaces where people like to work. Find Your Voice at Work is a call to arms: an invitation to employees to find their voices, be genuine and support each other.

The fall of the old economic order and Obama’s election are two signs that all of us who care about employee and community wellbeing need to find our voices and stand up for what we believe in. It’s time to create new paradigms for development. Storytelling in peer or community settings can help us find common ground for repairing and healing a broken world.

Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/narrative with readers, what would it be?

A: Be genuine. And be brave: your story, no matter how ordinary it may seem to you, could be life-changing for someone else. We need to hear your stories.