E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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John Kotter Interview – The Power of Storytelling

For the last few weeks Seth Kahan has been conducting a number of very good interviews with some of the top thinkers and Knowledge Management leaders that I can certainly recommend checking them out. There are quite a few of them already and I just thought I would comment on a couple of them that I found particularly interesting and inspiring. One of them is the recent interview he did with John Kotter around the topic of The Power of Storytelling where John comments on how crucial he feels the role of storytelling is in helping spread the knowledge amongst knowledge workers in order to help them become much more productive and collaborate with one another.

Indeed, a really worth while going through interview to say the least. In it you will be able to find plenty of gems that will certainly make you nod a few times and which for the sake of giving you a teaser I am going to reproduce over here:

Stories stick in the brain in a holistic way, better than charts, numbers and concepts. As a result the probability that the message will have an impact on behavior goes up

Yes ! Indeed, one of the reasons why I have never been very keen on using charts in order to deliver a message. I have a tendency to divert from them big time to the point where I now use them to just present different key topics and then develop on them through the usage of stories or narrations to describe them. But the key point is that those charts are not the center of the speech. Stories are.

But, you add a lot more information if you not only tell the stories, you show the audience. I do this by picking out parts, just like a play. I create little one-act plays

That is perhaps one of the main items that would separate a good storyteller from a great one ! If you have a story you would want to share with others to deliver a message you certainly need to show the audience; engage with it in the conversation and, above all, show the passion! That acting while delivering your story is what will actually get people to remember your story, not the wonderful charts you may have put together. Last week, while I was attending the TLE event in Madrid, there was a presentation by one of my colleagues around the subject of stress and how to manage it and the audience was thrilled throughout the session not by the charts she was using but because of the stories that were behind them. After the session everyone actually remembered everything about the presentation itself and could relate and apply some of the different tips shared just because of those same stories and not because of the charts. People have a tendency to remember stories, not charts.

Stories are key. If you want people to remember ideas so they can change and get better results, tell them stories

Absolutely ! I just couldn’t have agreed more with that statement. In fact, that is what would make Knowledge Management really meaningful and successful at the same time. That sensemaking through telling stories (And with passion) is what will stick with knowledge workers and somehow we probably need to understand that some times things are a lot easier to deliver than what we thought they would be. Indeed, telling stories would certainly help achieve that. Thus next time you have to put together a presentation for a particular audience, think about that same audience and use stories to convey your messages. They would certainly be enjoying them, and learning a whole lot more in the process, than without them!

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