The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: mastering the art and discipline of business narrative

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: mastering the art and discipline of business narrative

By Stephen Denning

Jossey-BassWiley pound;15.99

For years I was misled by advice given on a course about how to train governors. "Don't tell anecdotes," the course leader said. "It's unprofessional and a waste of time."

The truth is, though, that anecdotes are stories, and everyone loves stories. Leading business guru and former World Bank executive Stephen Denning knows that perfectly well. Telling stories, for him, is a legitimate management and leadership technique.

What's more, he writes, we can all do it. "Human beings master the basics of storytelling as young children and retain this capability throughout their lives."

The real skills, he goes on, lie first in choosing the right story for the point you intend to make, and then in performing it. "Keep in mind that the stories in this book are for the most part intended to be performed... Remember that everything is transformed in performance."

This book is not so much a collection of stories as an account of narrative styles and techniques. There are good stories here, though; some of them are well known, all are used to make leadership points. Take that of John Harrison, maker of the first clock accurate enough for navigation at sea.

The point of telling his story becomes clear in this one sentence: "While some of the brilliant scientists of the day sought to find a solution (to the problem of measuring longitude) through astronomy, self-taught English clockmaker John Harrison devoted much of his life to finding a solution by making an accurate clock."


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