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What stories have you been steeping in?

Stories are unfolding around us in every moment. We are awash with them. We are at the confluence of many powerful stories all competing for attention. Take the United States as an example:

  • The pandemic continues to surge with rising numbers in most places. Whether you believe this is really happening depends on the storyline you've been following.
  • Racial unrest is continuing, but the story of what unfolds from this point is uncertain. The dominant storyline seems to keep being reinforced.
  • The southern coastline is being pounded by the landfall of Hurricane Laura. Stories about the devastating effects of Katrina are sure to be rising in the minds of those who went through that event. The devastation of those times put the difference between affluent and poor communities into sharp relief.
  • In California, the redwoods are burning. I'm reimagining my time underneath their canopies, sad at their loss and grateful I was once there. What does the loss of these 1,000 year...
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Looking for signs in a time of confusing stories

In these greatly challenging days, I have the sense that we are building a new kind of collective wisdom, one that for the moment remains mysterious. New communities are springing up around invitations to think together about issues or be in practice, or listen to new ways of looking at the world. Although we are in the time of "social distancing", the space between us is somehow growing smaller.

There is a tension between that sense of speeding up to try and keep the world working, and slowing down to reflect on what might be possible now, both individually and collectively. 

We know with even more certainty now that the old stories are no longer serving, but what comes next?

This week I've had the pleasure to be in conversation with a group of narrative practitioners I really value -- Madelyn Blair, David Hutchens, Annette Simmons and David Drake. Together we make the most interesting weaving of thought around narrative practice. It was good to sit...

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An Organizational Powerhouse – The Four Roles of Story (Part 3)

Story is already the currency of organization. We trade stories all day, every day, no matter where we work or live. That means they are the lifeblood of every organization, determining its health, well-being and future viability. If you want to story to become an agent of future potential, though, there are four roles you might want to take a closer look at.

ANTHROPOLOGIST: Discovery

Consider yourself an anthropologist and use story as a way to look at organizational culture. Ask yourself the question: “What’s here?” and do some fieldwork. What stories are being told? What’s their focus? Are they positive or negative? Who is telling them? Who doesn’t get to tell stories or who is marginalized? What’s the impact of the stories?

You can tell a lot about the health and connectivity of an organization by the stories being told. So what is alive in the system (s) you are part of? What kind of a StoryField are they? Since any person, place or...

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Developing the ecology for community narratives

This post was written as a guest blog for Percolab.

I am writing this post sitting in the airport in Columbus, Ohio. It is currently 9:46 and my flight to Chicago and then on to Montreal should have departed at 8:27. It didn’t. Not because there are weather conditions here or mechanical errors or any other local disruption. I’m sitting here because of the domino effect.

Hurricane Dorian is busy pounding the Bahamas, and flight changes on the East Coast are causing mass disruptions in other parts of the country. For those who need more proof that we are all connected, be it by climate, systems or thought patterns, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

I want to make the case that our narrative ecology is the same. In other posts I’ve taken the forest ecology — and how trees continually communicate with each other — as a metaphor of how human systems interact. Trees are connected by the mycelium sheath. Mushrooms connect the individual root systems...

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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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