I came across Kaplan's blog post, "Stories Can Change The World," when he followed me on Twitter. (BTW–One of the best reasons to tweet is to expand your network of ideas and people.) The post is a wonderful reminder of how story, in pure form, is one of the most powerful ways that we can connect to each other and transfer wisdom. So simple, yet so profound.
I left a comment and included this story of my own:
"Many years ago, I was working in telecom, and had transitioned from an engineering role to an organization development role. One of my tasks was to re-shape the new employee orientation. I decided to hold a monthly gathering where I invited a VP, a first line manager, and technical guru to tell their stories, to share the wisdom they had gained from a unique career path. They each had 15 minutes, followed by Q+A. We sat in a circle and I had lit candles in the middle. I called it our “corporate campfire.”
One VP in particular had trouble deciding what to say. I suggested that he think about what he would say to his grandchildren, on the eve of his retirement. It worked.
Employees would tell me afterward how they had more hope, knowing that people they admire had struggled and gotten through similar challenges. I was also struck by how this monthly forum impacted the speakers. One VP wrote me to say that he enjoyed the chance to speak from the hip/heart, without the usual PowerPoint. Another one talked about juggling child custody schedules with business travel. I doubt he had ever told his business colleagues of such challenges.
Knowing how to tell a good story is a rare skill in the business world. When you find someone who can do this well and in the appropriate context, they are often seen as an effective leader."
P.S. Check out the Innovation Story Studio on Kaplan's site, Business Innovation Factory. The videos are a real treasure and are reminiscent of TED videos (which is no wonder since Kaplan makes references to being guided by the founder of TED, Richard Saul Wurman.)