The profound power of storytelling is never greater than when people are experiencing times of the greatest change and adversity, such as during war or rapid industrial and social upheaval. With things happening quickly around them, people often reach into the collective past for a kind of security that can inspire and help inform future decision making and difficult choices.
A long long time ago we became neurologically hard-wired as storytellers and, as importantly, story listeners. Cave paintings, aboriginal dreamtime stories and (before the written word) spoken storytelling, are very effective ways of transferring our stored collective wisdom. Storytelling is (according to Reynolds Price – and maybe don’t cite this to a loved one!) more important as a human need than love or shelter, and second only to nourishment!
Illustrative and easily memorable with distilled universal truths, ethics, values and norms, we can adapt stories when retelling them. More than other means of communication, they can bridge cultural, linguistic and age differences and can convey more context. Stories can equip a society to better face challenges and change, reinforcing its identity and linking quite separate elements to a single “spine”.
A well picked story can provide perspective for innovative problem solving, providing an empathetic and transformative experience, which we can all readily identify with.
No surprise then at the growing importance for management in being able to harness the power of storytelling as the powerful key competency educational tool it clearly is – it’s included in the Change Management Certification course too. More effectively connecting and engaging employees to strategy, belief and motivation, it can allow a deeper and better understanding than mere dry facts, interpreting a community’s past to help shape its future values and direction.
In the words of Alexander Mankowsky:
“Only if we understand the past can we move forward to analyse the present and, as the last stage, look into the future.”