This post is the third in my organizational story writing series. In the first post, I defined the form and shared ten reasons why organizational story writing matters. Then, I introduced a current client, Jackie James Creedon, in my second post. Here, I included the interest survey that I ask most clients to complete ahead of our work as well as the approach and tools that I use when conducting my initial listening session.
These first meetings unfold organically. I position myself as a listener, and I try to capture as many details as I can while my clients recount their experiences. Sometimes, I will audio record the sessions. I always take abundant notes, and I always do so by hand. Why? Well, because devices feel clinical and cold, and organizational story writing is a very human experience.
This isn’t about marketing.
It’s about meaning-making.
My intention isn’t to transcribe my client’s story word for word, but to hear it and to try to understand it, so I can help them explore it further and surface the unexpected.
I use a sketchbook to capture what I hear, and what emerges is typically a linear summary of critical events, reflections, and themes that looks something like this:
I create my set of story tiles from these notes, placing just one small detail on one sticky note or index card. The information is the same, but these tools act like tiles that can be moved around, mixed together, and manipulated much like tiles:
The ability to move and mix these details is key, because this is how perspective is built, deepened, and even challenged. In my experience, this is the heart of organizational story telling.
It’s one thing to write the first story that comes to mind–the one that sits on the surface of any experience. It’s quite another to examine relationships, events, and our responses to them from different vantage points. When we take the time to do this, surprising and often very satisfying discoveries are made.
We learn so much more about ourselves, our work, and our organizations this way, and all of it has the potential to inspire improvement.
This is what makes organizational story writing worthwhile, in the end: the learning that emerges from the process, not the mere product itself.
If you’re eager to learn more about how to move and mix these tiles in order to tinker with story structure, purpose, and messaging, be sure to drop by tomorrow. That’s where I’m heading next……