Storytelling

The Power of Stories for Positive Development

Change, development, and transformation are integral to every organization. Companies, departments, and teams all have stories they tell in various ways. Stories about the future are also told—in glossy brochures, board meetings, hallways, or workshops. These narratives often vary widely and feature different protagonists, victims, and heroes, reminiscent of the Drama Triangle in Transactional Analysis. Because of this, storytelling has proven to be a valuable method for shaping change processes and motivating employees.

Here, we present three fundamental storytelling structures. But first, a crucial WARNING: Storytelling can quickly become manipulative. It requires a genuine understanding of people’s challenges and an authentic attitude that communicates: I understand the difficulties, and I also see the opportunities!

The Hero’s Journey

One of the most well-known concepts in storytelling for change processes is the Hero’s Journey. Inspired by Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey outlines a protagonist’s path from the familiar world into an adventure, through setbacks and challenges, until they return as a hero to the transformed world.

Example: Facing new competitors and a drop in revenue. The hero of the story can be the collective „we“ or any individual within the organization. The „call to adventure“ is the market change, and the initial „refusal“ is the understandable reaction of reluctance.

With the help of mentors (leaders, coaches, colleagues, change companions, strategy networkers…), the first threshold is crossed, and the adventure begins.

The crisis in the second act involves multiple failed attempts to regain customers. Important colleagues might even leave for competitors. To overcome this crisis, the hero must connect with their innermost source of strength. For teams, this might be regained trust or a connection to the larger purpose (the WHY) of their work. With this strength, hurdles are overcome, and the team mobilizes all its resources, growing beyond its previous limits.

The third act, „the return,“ marks the journey back to a „new normal.“ It’s crucial that the organization, team, or individual is not the same after this Hero’s Journey. The newly discovered strengths and resources are now fully integrated and enrich the post-change period as the „elixir.“

Walt-Disney-Method

Another creative storytelling method for change is the Walt Disney Method. Walt Disney was a master of imagination and innovation. This method divides the change process into three roles: the Dreamer, the Critic, and the Realist. The Dreamer thinks in grand visions and ideas, the Critic considers potential challenges and obstacles, and the Realist organizes the implementation. By switching between these perspectives, new stories can continuously be told, balancing the grand dream with the realities of obstacles.

Senoi-Technique

The Senoi Technique is another effective storytelling method for change. Originating from the Senoi, an indigenous people in Malaysia, this method emphasizes the importance of dreams and communal storytelling as tools for overcoming fears and promoting development. In a corporate context, employees can be invited to share their dreams and fears regarding changes. The stories from these narratives can then be collectively expanded. It’s crucial that each story focuses on the positive—such as a happy ending, learning and growth, or positive relationships formed through shared experiences.

This method is very useful for fostering understanding and empathy and for creating a collective vision for the organization’s future.

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