Telling stories together creates shared awareness and more choice.
I spent the morning with a client group (an entire HR department). In the work they did over the four or so hours we were together, I was reminded of the powerful impact of sharing stories, even anonymously.
Creating a valid picture of what the group is saying to itself about itself sounds like it could be an exercise in redundancy.
The thing is, it’s rare for everyone in a work group to have the same story. And that’s where the difficulty comes in. Remember the blind men and the elephant.
Without making time and space to get the full elephant in the room (mixing of metaphors intentional), the stories exist only in pockets of the organization, and then in partial form.
The group conversation builds shared awareness; people see where they see things the same and can talk more about where they see things differently.
This leads to new conversations. Someone observed, “We’ve never said these things to each other in a group before.” A clear example of how speech is a creative act. Through their conversation, the group was generating a reality that hadn’t previously existed: new agreements, promises, and requests.
And here’s a commercial: it helped that the initial stories were played back by someone without a dog in the fight, i.e. someone like me. People were able to trust that there was less filtering in the retelling, believed that my main interest was in helping the group get to where it wanted to go, not in executing some unspoken agenda.
Let’s also be realistic. This group still has a great deal of work to do. There will be slippages and repeats of old patterns. And, there is already tremendous progress too.
The main payoff is that the shared awareness creates more choices for everyone. More choices means more alternatives, more opportunities to find innovative ideas and solutions.
Now that the information is in the sunlight, there’s no going back. How great is that?