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Surfing the 3 Waves of Story (Part 2)

Story as a Learning Practice & Process Partner

The human mind is organised around stories.  We capture our experiences and make sense of the world through the stories that form our lens on reality.  Since our knowledge is captured in story form, it makes sense to use stories as one of the fastest mediums for organisational and group learning.  With these applications, story can move from an influences to a game changer.

The next two perspectives are:

  • Story as a learning practice
  • Story as a process partner

Story can form the basis of a systemic learning practice in these ways:

  • As an organisational currency
  • As a medium for learning in various configurations
  • As a knowledge management tool
  • For making collective sense and meaning
  • Creating connections and learning pathways

Whether you know it or not, story already is your organisational currency.  The stories people share about the organisation, their experience of it, the products or...

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Surfing the 3 Waves of Story (Part 1)

This is my rewrite of a series of blogposts from 2017, formulated into a chapter for a new book being published in 2019.  It comes in three parts, covering six perspectives I’m working with on the power of stories and what colleagues David Hutchens, David Drake and I call “The Three Waves” of story. Given the current backdrop of politics, conflict and polarised opinion, it feels to me that the waves are ringing truer than when we first spoke of them years ago. A warning for readers — these will be meaty posts, but well worth the effort!  Find Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Story is the New Black

These days we call everyone a storyteller – our authors, songwriters, business leaders, activists, celebrities, social media stars – even our politicians.  Over the past decade especially, storytelling has gained ground not only as a marketing and communications tool, but also as a leadership imperative. Leaders are flocking to learn how...

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Unpacking the privilege of the dominant narrative

It was really only about three weeks ago that I finally learned how to spell the word privilege.  It may take me much, much longer to really unpack the privilege I have.  And it wasn't that I was unaware that I had any, but that my life and work are bringing me new ways to shine a light on what that looks like and how it behaves.  And much of it has to do with the invisible dominant social narrative that demonstrates itself every day in ways so many of us who are part of it are blind to.

Last week I spent five days steeping in an intense conversation about race, power and privilege. We on the hosting team invited participants into what we called a "shaky sanctuary". We told them that discomfort doesn't mean you are unsafe, it means you are learning. It would be fair to say I am still recovering. And I've been distilling what I learned.

Over a lifetime of journeying around the world, I've bumped up against the edges of the dominant narrative many times.  Here are...

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The Nahuatl word “apapachar” -- a truly Latin embrace

stories in a word May 19, 2018

Have you ever felt embraced by a person or a place?  I have that sense about Aotearoa/New Zealand, a place I came to originally in 1983 and spent almost 30 years discovering.  I feel a deep connection to this land and she has a great sense of aliveness for me.  I call her "she" because in Maori tradition, Papatuanuku is the name of the Earth Mother.  The longer I spent living on her hills and under the starry skies of the South Pacific, the more I sensed that she chose the people who would come to explore her and those who could stay. One of those transplants is my friend Jaqueline Benndorf  -- originally from Uruguay -- who is both a skilled counsellor and an artist.  She creates embracing environments, so her story in a word came as no surprise -- apapachar.

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The Art of Hosting Yourself

It was an unexpected and heartfelt invitation from my friend and colleague Holger Scholz last year:  "Let's do something together!".  And somewhat later on:  "I've really been feeling that we need to focus on what is underneath all the tools and methods.  I think our retreat should be called THE ART OF HOSTING YOURSELF."  And that opened a deep and fluid inquiry between us into the heart of what it means to be a practitioner, a leader and a host.  And over the time we spent together, we became a circle of 12 holding this focus between us in a four day retreat earlier this month.

Holger and I have known each other for more than 10 years now.  We have taken our facilitation practices in different directions, but somehow the core of what we are most interested in has created an ongoing conversation between us.  What does it mean to be a practitioner?  What is at the core of deeply masterful, humanly focused leadership -- whether that is in...

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45 authors, 3 editors, 1 host -- the journey of co-creating a global book

The pieces:  3 co-editors based in three different timezones, 45 co-authors located all over the globe, more than 600 pages of written material, 3 days, the dream of creating a book that will impact and uplift a field of practice, 1 host.

The result:  A vibrant, connected, innovative and inspired body of material ready to become a best seller called The Visual Facilitation Field Guide and a group of participants fired up about what they learned and where they could take it.

How it worked:  This was the second time I hosted a booksprint.  I fell into the first one, invited by a group of people who wanted to put their talents to work in a different way than simply writing a report to close their two years of researching together.  What I experienced there led me to believe that there is both a strength and little bit of magic to hothousing a collaborative project together. 

When I met Jeroen Blijsie at the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP...

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Nurturing stories around the table

stories in a word Jan 24, 2018

 I've been hosting an international Booksprint over the past few days.  Around 40 authors are engaged in creating a Visual Facilitation Fieldguide, with the aim of both sharing their expertise and extending the field.  While many authors are working virtually and checking in via Zoom, six of us have come together to work -- and live -- communally in the Netherlands.  You can learn a lot about people from the way they work, but you can learn an equal amount from the way they eat.

Holger and I had a conversation about "bread cultures" -- that includes, for example, all the countries with the sea at their borders: Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and more.  I heard a radio programme once suggesting that the average German eats four slices of bread and a brötchen (a bread roll) every day.  Holger thinks that might be underestimating it!  Our host, a Dutchman, told us that in his younger days of competitive sport he ate a loaf...

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How stories can support cross-cultural understanding

storymaking Jan 15, 2018

My first deep immersion international experience came at 17, when I was an exchange student in Germany during my last year in High School.  The biggest discovery I made was that there was more to difference than just language.  Germans had a different perspective of life than I'd grown up with, and they handled it in a different way.  It was a time when I realised my way wasn't the only way.  It was a time of seeing both the gifts -- and the challenges -- of cross-cultural understanding.  I've been fascinated with it ever since.

At the Beyond Storytelling conference last year, I met Joanna Sell, who is working in this field, using narrative to foster cross-cultural understanding.  She supports cross-cultural teams, people moving from one culture to another and groups and organisations seeking to make the most out of their international people's expertise.

In this interview, I talk to her about how she stumbled onto her passion and she gives some very...

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Find the WHY behind your story

I haven't seen The Greatest Showman yet, but I'm predisposed to like movie musicals -- I got it from my mother. I'm also the person who loves stories -- the behind-the-scenes-what-really-happened-and-how-it-was -- kind of stories. That's why I love this one.

Seems it has taken Hugh Jackman eight years to get this movie made. His vision and commitment led the way for the project's greenlighting and was the inspiration for the entire cast. He also has the reputation for being a very good human and all-around nice guy, as well as being extremely multi-talented. He himself talks about loving to try things and play. All of these qualities make this an excellent example of purposeful and intentional leadership that creates a learning, creative environment. This clip shows what happened when he couldn't help himself but take up the charge. And everyone else responds! And if you listen to the words of the song, they are about a leader finding his deeper purpose -- the WHY behind his story.

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Happy New Year -- what's the new story of you?

So many of us believe new year seems to call for a new start.  Maybe we've done the review and reflection on the year gone by. We've sifted, and sorted and clarified.  We wrote a list of all the things we no longer want and one with all our intentions. We want to start fresh.  We want a new dream in 2018!

Here's the challenge:  New dreams call for changes.  They need attention.  So many resolutions are made, but it can be difficult to follow through.  Why?

Every dream -- every potential change -- is grounded in your story.  This is a great time to invite your story to partner you in the journey.

Whether you realise it or not, your personal story is the road your life is running on.  Do you like where it's taking you? When is the last time you had a deeper look at what helping -- or hindering -- you in reaching your dreams?

The pictures you see here are my own story -- yes, I did this exercise and even illustrated it, discovering a...

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