Saturday, October 8, 2011
How stories come into play with customer experience is a rich area to explore. Our conversation dove into some ideas and practices that are powerful yet subtle.
Monday, September 19, 2011
What is the role of will in organizations? How much can we direct and control?
Stories operate within these dimensions to help us keep our fragile vessels afloat
Sunday, September 4, 2011
During Jay Cross's trip to Monterey I had a chance to catch up and learn about his new work on 21st Century Leadership Skills. Of course we had to talk about a stories.
Jay posted this blog with a few impressions from our lunch.
READ JAY'S SUMMARY OF OUR CONVERSATION
Below are two videos from a second conversation...
Here's another video with some more sound bites from our conversation...
Monday, July 25, 2011
Sounds groovy to say, “Go with the flow” but what does it mean?
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about flow as being in the moment. What does this really mean? How might it be relevant for the day to day challenges of organizational life?
How do we move in organizations? Do we give into tides of constraints dotting the shores with recognizable successes and failures? How do we discern the faint melodies of possibilities offered by shifts of how and who we are… and what place should we assume in the ecological menagerie of conditions, gifts, talents and opportunities enlightening our constellations?
Story-based tactics, processes and tools help us probe the complexity of organizational life.
It sounds so groovy to say, “Just go with the flow…” What does it mean? In my new short conversational starter with a flare of organizational poetry I take a stab at stirring the pot. I'd love to hear your thoughts....
Here's a comp white paper that is a guide for helping others make sense of stories that surface in meetings, conversations, or workshops:
I've setup a Voice Thread link where people can easily post audio comments, text comments, documents, images, even record video reactions to my video all from the website without any fuss (you can even use a telephone to dial into and leave your sound bite. Please consider adding to the conversation:
Sunday, June 26, 2011
A Little Background Story for Context…
Forty years ago I found myself at the first of many interesting educational crossroads. New to Monterey, California my family searched for a school for my sister to attend. After a brief stint in one of the public schools my parents enrolled Franca at Santa Catalina School. It was an all-girls school from Pre-Kindergarten (PreK) through high school run by Domincan nuns.
Somehow the school decided it would entertain a wild and crazy idea: start boys in the PreK. Maybe they needed revenue, maybe they were curious, I honestly don’t know what precipitated the change. I found myself invited to be one of the few, one of the proud, and one of the lucky boys invited to partake in this great experiment.
Turned out they really liked us boys. Each year they kept deciding to let us stay another year. By the time we got to fourth grade they decided we could stay for good. However, we were to be the first class to graduate from eighth grade. This year, the school asked me to commemorate that decision and honor me by giving the lower school address commencement address.
While I am asked frequently to do keynote addresses, I’m not a huge fan of them. It’s just hard to touch people. Perform, impress, command attention, wield pulpit power and create passive hope for people are opportunities offered by keynoting. I hunger for the intimacy of inciting insights that comes from facilitated storytelling. As a general rule, I set the value of keynoting high, ensuring that only the most serious clients engage me in this way. I also almost always insist on being given other opportunities to work with some of the member of the audience in a different setting other than the plenary address.
The commencement address for Santa Catalina School was for middle school students, parents, teachers and administrators. How could I hold the attention of a diverse audience? Could I create a fertile space of imagination to offer some tangible gifts to aid them on the next part of their journey? How would I make it be about them? Could I avoid clichés, hype, and platitudes? Would I be able to minimize perfunctory pomp and circumstances perpetuated by this genre of speech? How would I be fun and serious at the same time? Would I have to keep my message super simple with only one or two key take-a-ways or could I tackle a complex set of concepts? And could the whole address be done completely with story forms employing my authentic voice?
Despite my familiarity with the school (my son and daughter attend the school) I wanted to hold the graduating students in my heart. Whether or not my clients realize it or not I probe client engagement requirements and stakeholder perspectives with the natural power of story. I elicit stories. Call me wedded to my storied ways, but I don’t know any other way to quickly infer patterns in complex systems. This might seem counter-intuitive but when faced with the speed of business in today’s environment stories are the fastest and most efficient vehicle for analysis and communication.
I had a few data points about the graduating class and other stakeholders. I filled these in with a couple of informal conversations with teachers, observations of the students leading up to graduation day and an hour meeting with the principal.
“Storytelling is a safe space for creative thinking, negotiating differences, and establishing commonality. Storytelling empowers the speaker and improves communication through speaking and listening. Stories are the most efficient way of storing, retrieving, and conveying information. Since story hearing requires active participation on the part of the listener, stories are the most profoundly social form of communication.” – http://www.makingstories.net
Where care is present stories flourish. The shortest distance between two people is a story. Since my children are still in kindergarten and third grade, I did not know the principal of the middle school well. Stories beget stories. An hour flew by in no time but surfaced a wealth of stories. More importantly without me overtly asking the question, “what gift (ideas) do you want to offer these students to help them succeed?” a clear concentration of three major themes emerged. These were judgment, compassion, and mercy. Armed with the gifts and a feel for the students both as individuals and as a class I was equipped to craft my message.
The Story Architecture of the Message…
Two days after my meeting with the principal while sitting on the soccer field watching my son’s practice I conceived the following architecture for the talk in my notebook:
It’s up to you but I recommend watching the video before reading the analysis. This sketch from my notebook and the story architecture will probably make more sense if you watched the video:
1. After the formal alphabet soup introduction of credentials quickly use humor to create credibility of a personal nature somehow related to the students and audience. Get them immediately involved in the talk. Do this with humor and a quick anecdote. In this case I had a fun and fluid self-effacing bridge to construct between us.
2. Quickly make the talk all about them. Create a rapid interactive collage of small moments and anecdotes that highlights things about the students.
3. Layout a roadmap for the rest of talk. Five stories will be used. Three stories comprised the students’ gifts for their journey (judgment, compassion and mercy). On either end of the three gift stories were two stories. One to illustrate the results of failing to invoke these gifts and the last story for showcasing the impact of when all the gifts are working together.
4. Short interlude of scenarios of when and how these gifts might be necessary. I start with an example of to the daily application of these gifts in my life as a father. Then I offered situations the students are likely to experience in the next leg of their journey.
5. Return to humor I used in the opening of the talk. While being funny, lace it with a serious message in a song that connects with the gifts shared.
6. End with two brief quotes that support and segue into a closing image and metaphor.
I was very purposeful in deciding what kind of stories to use in the talk. Variety and diversity are important. I feel stories need to from many different domains and genres to cast the story net as wide as possible. It can be easy to become too narrow or focused in what kind of stories we tell or how tightly encoded are driving messages are embedded in the stories.
Let me say a little more about this idea of working too hard to couple our message with our stories. I look for a pattern of themes. If I can tag a story with a word closely related to one of the major themes I am trying to communicate that is good enough. I do not need a story that is a perfect illustration of my message; quite the contrary. I want stories that are just a little fuzzy. Allow people to use their sense giving telescope to bring the story into focus. Let your listeners go in the direction most needed by them in the moment. Leave it rich enough that there is lots of room for them to wander through the patterning of stories to uncover new threads of meaning.
By their nature stories are fluid. Stories overlap memories with the context of the moment. I find stories in collages and clusters to be more truthful than pinning the entirety of a message in a single story. All the greatest stories are vast little universes with an orbit of small story fragments. The depth and veracity of stories is more easily perceived when scanning the pattern and intention of stories in proximity with one another. I am naturally distrustful of single isolated large perfect stories with clean beginning, middles, and ends and unmistakable story arcs. In many instances these stories have already been warped around the gravity of a pre-digested message. Stories are creative acts and furthermore I view them as co-creative stages on which themes, drama, and meanings emerge in a process of co-creation. The story is only one small part of the key. The decoding and collaborative sense making space generated by telling a story to trigger the stories of others is sacred. My experience has been that when this space opens up, storytelling and listening is authentic, deep, and responsive to the needs of the moment. The space falls apart when listening ceases and any one person returns to advancing a monocular agenda.
Strategic Use of Stories in Organizational Communication & Learning, Gargiulo 2006
There’s something else wonderful that happens when you work with collage of stories. The stories begin to entwine themselves to each other. For example, I did not architect the triple place of music in the talk – it just sort of happened. There is the musical reference at the beginning of the talk, two of the student anecdotes involve music, the story of Emmanual Jal the hip hop artists and then my closing song. On the one hand there is nothing extraordinary about this phenomenon since it’s just what naturally occurs with stories. It also helps that I come from a musical family so I am naturally drawn to musical stories; yet every time I see stories work their magic I am grateful and humbled by the experience.
Here is how I selected the type of stories to use at the various points of my talk:
• Personal History (in my opening humor) – first a small piece of shared experience that I had with them and then move to a quick scene of my longtime affiliation with the school
• Student Anecdotes – things I observed and learned about the students – to establish them as the heroes of the talk, to demonstrate care and listening
• Personal Anecdote – of a time I failed to access the virtues of judgment, compassion, and mercy and a simple expression of regret
• Two Movie Stories – popular archetypal movies (Lord of the Rings and Star Wars) to share the gift of judgment
• Story from a Book – Gregory Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart, for the gift of compassion
• Historical Story of Major Personality – a story about Pope John Paul II for the gift of mercy
• Life Story of Contemporary Young Personality – share the story of the young hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal to show what it looks like when the gifts of judgment, compassion, and mercy are all working together
• Scenario Stories – these are rhetorical questions that paint a scene of daily opportunities for judgment, compassion, and mercy to manifest themselves, start with the personal then move back to students
• Story as Music – sing a short song to introduce humor and tie back to themes introduced throughout the talk
• Story as Metaphor and Imagery – setup an image that encompasses the three gifts that relates back to the students as heroes, start with two quotes end with vivid word picture
A Few Tips You Might Find Useful…
I have a confession to make…I never practiced this talk and I went to the podium with no notes. All I had was a pair of shorts that I wore when I was in pre-kindergarten at Santa Catalina. Sure, I had told two of these stories in another venue but almost all of the material was new to me. What I did do is spend a lot of time reflecting and visualizing the story architecture of the talk. I also spent a considerable time holding the students in my heart.
Here are a few tips you might find helpful:
• Try not to get bogged down in style. I know what my strengths are. I am genuine, warm, intense, energetic, and personal. Each person has a distinct and beautiful footprint that animates their style. One thing that does transcend style is selflessness.
• Care about what you have to say and care about the people. The rest is very individual.
• Work to make stories in all their forms a central part of how you understand your message, craft your message and deliver your message.
• Think in terms of collages of stories. Avoid single stories. There’s a place for them and I am not recommending you abandon great stories with visible arcs, surprises, and tensions. Lots of stories orbiting your talk pull people into the gravity of your message.
• Delivery matters but not as much as you think. If you get caught up in the ground swell of stories you are sharing and your audience, you’ll be surprised at how an effective tone, color, and character emerges.
• Don’t work so hard to script these things. Anchor yourself on a few key phrases at pivotal moments of the talk and imagine yourself delivering these.
THREE STORY SKILL BUILDING RESOURCES:
Building an Index of Personal Stories: A Simple Guide to Mining Your Stories
Story-based Communication Skills Self-Development Exercises
Story-based Communication Skills Assessment Tool
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Judgments separate us from others. They hold us secure and tight in assumed positions of superiority.
What if we let the scaffolding of being judgmental drop away?
Can we really halt our knee jerk reflexes to label, categorize and evaluate people’s actions and words based our individually constructed value driven world view?
While good intentions and self-awareness are a start - they're not enough...
Stories help me quite.
Take a moment and please watch this short video...
I've posted this video on my Voice Thread site - this a free service that allows people to post comments in a vareity of ways including audio (recorded either from your machines mic or even by dialing a phone number to record your comments), video comments, text, and the ability to upload images, documents, presentations, etc...
I'd love for you to share your thoughts, ideas and reactions with me and each other. Here's the link:
These are skills that can be developed. Organizational cultures can weave these into the fabric of their cultures and reap the performance benefits. Interested in learning more about these skills?
Interested in learning more - consider giving me (Terrence Gargiulo) a call - 415-948-8087.
Friday, March 18, 2011
A recent experience with dolphins works as backdrop in this video to explore how we might meet these challenges and realities of speed and purpose with equanimity and even joy.
What happens when we move past thinking of stories as tools of persuasion?
We unearth a Rosetta stone for critical thought, deep conversation, and emergent possibilities…strategic organizational story work creates an environment that enmeshes people into networks of meaning that leads to adaptability and performance…this integrative pattern of interrelating produces a wonderful by product of joy.
Consider this video's working metaphor and then be a part of the conversation.
Share with us experiences of what this looks and feels like for you in your organization. What things are you doing or think you could be doing in your organization to bring about "the dolphin effect?"
I've posted this video on Voice Thread to allow folks a vehicle for responding with comments, audio, video, documents, etc... (all of these things can be done for free from the website):
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Do we make opportunities for people in organizations to expand in flexible ways to create new spaces of value generation…
And do we at the same time combine agility with the requisite structures of business?
Yeast and sourdough bread making work as a narrative backdrop to explore these questions.
WATCH THE VIDEO:
Can you detect the intersection of these two forcesI've posted this video on Voice Thread to allow folks a vehicle for responding with comments, audio, video, documents, etc... (all of these things can be done for free from the website):
in your organization?
How would you describe it?
If anything were to shift, what would look differently on a day by day basis in your organization?
Friday, January 7, 2011
I can't believe it's 2011. As I look back on 2010 I am gratified by all of the new content I created and offered with folks. Some wonderful collaborations - and some personal breakthroughs in terms of new idas and ways of apporaching my story work.
For a quick recap of the year and links to relevant artifacts of my bursts of creativity...
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THIS LINK
I am planning and reflecting on what I will learn and try new this year. I am open to your thoughts and ideas. Last year I moved from lots of webinars to a few well timed and placed webinars usually with other major partners and collaborators to short videos. A colleague said he thought there were like Organizational Poetry. If you haven't seen too many of these yet please take a minute and go out to my Vimeo Channel.
Before getting into new business content I wish to use this post to share three personal items:
3. Video of pictures with the audio of 11 year old me (1979 - you can do the math :) singing the role of Amahl in Gian Carlo Menotti's opera Amahal an the Night Visitors
Please don't be a stranger - Let me hear from you and if there is a webinar or short video topic you would like to see or which might be helpful reach out to me by email - firstname.lastname@example.org or phone - 415-948-8087.
Blessings to all for a richly deepening and storied year!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
We’re precious in how we do what we do…nothing needs to be without the simple clean intention to be and give the most we can. Even in our worst moments of glorious failure we can sail through our darkness to brighter shores…
Might we see our organizations as oil lamps to be lit by our shameless individual and communal efforts?
Chopin's music and a story about one of his famous poloniase's work as back drop in this video conversation starter:
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Think about what happens when you strike a pitch fork and then bring another one close to it. The second dormant fork picks up the vibrations of the other. The two forks begin sharing the same frequency.
This is exactly what happens with stories. Neuroscientists can show us now with real data how a listener and speaker become harmonized in a shared space of story. As I share a story with an intention of care and a genuine drive to connect with myself and others, my brainwaves and the brainwaves of my listeners will become coordinated. Sense making replaces chaos. A temporary structure of meaning becomes a suspended moment where the flurry of sight, sounds, and sensations becomes the quiet eye of the storm around us.
Learning and insight can occur here. Time slows down. It's a state of mindfulness and engagement. We hunger to step into the geometry of this archeticture. We are more deeply ourselves...more deeply connected...more deeply human.
Nancy Duarte's book is brilliant. She has taken the lessons of one story form - the hero's journey and mapped "sparklines." These sparklines are guided by the archetypal structure of the hero's journey and shows how presentations and communications can be molded around this scaffolding to create powerful communications.
Congratulations Nancy! You've brought a level of insight and innovation to the field of communications!
Speech Write extraordinaire Ian Griffin interviewed me at Nancy's book party last week. Here's a link from his blog to what five of us leaders in the field had to say...
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I just returned from a wonderful conference in Singapore on Business Narrative. During one of the many rich dialogs with peers I stumbled upon a word I hadn't used in a long time. The word is "confer." Simple word but in the context of thinking about the nature of employee engagement and collaboration it brought to mind some new nuances. As an aside it's probably no coincidence that at a "confer-ence" I became more sensitized to the word "confer"
On the long plane ride back to California I captured the essence of the conversation in this stream of consciousness piece. I turned it into one of my short video conversation starters. Here it is:
Let’s be honest: what are our real intentions for doing these things?
Are we trying to placate employees or can we find an effective way of inviting our employees to mix together their energies, talents and visions
Are we committed to conferring with our employees? Do we understand when collaboration makes sense and when it’s possible? Can we stay engaged with our employees?
It turns out putting the multifaceted natural capacity of stories to work leads to a whole host of new organizational engagement strategies and tactics you may have overlooked.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Flexing Your Business Storytelling Muscles with Deliberate Practices
Collaborating with other story practitioners is a special treat. When Shawn Callahan and I of Anecdote regroup to share our latest ideas it's always stimulating. Wish it was easier to reveal all the behind the scenes conversations and work that go into pulling together a session.
Business storytelling is really more than a trend. People are hungry for connections whether it be in the workplace or even in their personal relationship. "The shortest distance between two people is a story" (you can quote me on that one :). While we're all natural storytellers there still needs to be purposeful attention and effort made to tap into "the natural power of story" (you can quote Shawn on that one :).
There's some good news. Since we're involved in various degrees of storytelling/storylistening/story triggering all the time we don't need to start from scratch and put in the 10,000+ hours of practice Malcom Gladwell suggests we need for mastery.
I've developed some specific practices, tools, and techniques to help people gain better access to their innate capabilities. Among other things, I have research/evidence based model that identifies nine story-based communication skills, an assessment instrument, book of self-development exercises, group process activities, and organizational interventions I use with clients.
If you haven't had a chance to checkout Anecdote's website with its new face lift be sure to pour through the rich coffers of their blog and wonderful collection of ready to go stories for business in their Story Finder Tool.
I digress let me share with you what we did during our August complimentary webinar...
Have you wondered why you are not making better progress at becoming a storyteller at work? Are you finding it difficult to find good stories to tell? Are your stories relevant to your colleagues or do they look at you blankly wondering what planet you're on?Here's a recording of the webinar...
Spend an hour with master business story practitioners Shawn Callahan of Anecdote and Terrence Gargiulo of MAKINGSTORIES.net as they share deliberate practices you can employ today to be a better storyteller.
This session was conducted as conversation with participants. So there are lots of wonderful ideas and experiences shared by all. Be sure to add your voice by chiming in with your ideas, experiences, and of course stories below.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I got a lot of great emails and questions from folks about a group process I use with companies. In my last video, I shared a story about an intervention I sometimes using involving leaders standing in as a symbol of the company and allow the group to roast the company. Unbelievable things happen.
Here's a link to the the video to hear the story - it's the story I tell at the end of the two and half minute video.
The roast is a challenging but powerful vehicle. Of course its a bit risky. One caveat. Be honest with yourself. If you are a confident and skilled facilitator and you are willing to stir the pot and navigate the dynamics than you will find this process rewarding. If not you might not want to try this - or let someone shadow it with you the first time to lend a helping hand in case the dynamics go awry.
Here are a few things I've learned...
1. Finding the right executive is key
2. Develop strong relationship and trust with the group
3. Lead the group in a process of deciding what it feels are ground rules for the process (I'll sometimes have folks even talk about what they think is funny, other roasts they have been in or seen) - let the group self elect one or more people to act as "keepers of the rules" - empower them to remind others when anyone strays off course
4. Have folks speak of the business as "it" never let it become directed at the individuals (the executive) he or she is only an anthropomorphic sit in/representation of the business
5. Before you conclude have a symbolic object to place in the chair and ask the executive get up and join the group (if at all possible I like using circles or U shape configurations when possible - then let the executive take a shot or two at roasting the company
6. You lead a debrief with the whole group including the executive sitting with the participants
7. I know it may sound touchy/feely but do give first the executive and the participants a chance to talk about the emotions, feelings, observations etc... that came up during the process
8. Depending on the context - I move the group to look at tangible action items that can be taken
9. Keep self-effacing humor and fun at the heart of the process - don;t let people get bogged down in pure venting
Hope that helps -. If you do the roast please let me know how it goes. Also please feel free to grab me on my cell if you want to discuss further - 415-948-8087
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
How Can We Engender Respect & Attention With Our Stories?
I’ve always been fascinated with how stories connect with one another. For most of us who are not natural performers or orators telling a single big story in a compelling way seems daunting. I’ve noticed that most stories are more like snippets; small bits and pieces. Even when they’re not the flow of conversation between people or the impromptu opportunities that present themselves for sharing stories requires us to condense our stories.
Here are some questions I’ve been thinking about:
How do stories change when we need to collapse them?I’ve been releasing short two minute video blog pieces where I have been experimenting with story richness. I’ve been playing with story forms (anecdotes, metaphors, visual metaphors, clichés, alluding to other personal stories without going into them, and references to well known stories or movies, etc…).
How much can we condense or abbreviated a story before it loses its impact?
When we link several stories together (two or more in a rapid string)? How does that impact us as a teller? And what effect does it have on listeners? Can they follow us? Will it trigger stories for them?
How do these “story forms,” enrich conversations and presentations and when do they detract? Are they still stories? Are these story skills more easily practiced by others because they might mimic natural forms of communication better? Can we be more mindful and aware of these forms of stories and by doing so become more effective at connecting with each other?In my latest video I gave myself a hard challenge. I wanted to tell three stories in less than a minute and half and still have it be cogent, effective, evocative for others, and well connected to the front part of the video. I then further challenged myself by giving myself one take only. I turned the camera on and away I went. I had a mental schema in my mind and I had identified the stories but I had never tried telling them all together and I had never tried to tell them all in less than a minute and half.
Here’s the result. I’d love to hear people’s experiences and thought about the questions. Here's the short video to jumnpstart your reflections and our conversation...