Archive for the 'Storytelling' Category

The Business Adventure

Keith March 9th, 2010

Adventures are not adventures if there isn’t a degree of danger and uncertainty about them. – Ewan McGregor

Adventure

While in Blackwood this weekend, we drove into Trentham for a visit.

There was a group of motorcyclists in town, and I struck up a conversation with one (who was riding a very nice touring BMW). He was preparing to take part in the “2010 Long Ride”, an event to raise funds for prostate cancer research in Australia, in which he and others will be riding from Melbourne to Darwin via New South Wales and Queensland – a distance of over 4,000 km.

I talked about my 1980 trip across the Nullarbor from Melbourne to Karratha, WA. On this trip, I travelled 5,000 km in six days on a GSX 750 Suzuki (and home again at a slightly slower rate).

Crossing the Nullarbor

This put me in mind of “Long Way Round” – Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s epic 2004 motorcycle ride across Europe, Russia and North America. I have recently watched this on DVD, and have now just started reading the book. Inspiring stuff!

Thinking about this on the way home, I also thought about some of the other things I had heard about adventuring from Nick Farr at a recent CPX meeting.

Climbing Everest is pretty serious stuff. Here are some of the thoughts that I tweeted from Nick’s presentation:

  • The number of deaths on Everest is 8% of the number of summiteers.
  • A dream becomes a goal when you start actively planning it.
  • Success requires taking risks.
  • Failure teaches that taking risks is crucial.
  • Failure provides an experience you can’t buy.

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Expect the unexpected

Keith January 21st, 2010

I was tweeting from a presentation on storytelling on Tuesday.  Shawn Callahan of Anecdote led the session, and listed the key elements of an effective story:

  • Simple – It doesn’t have to be sophisticated – you hear it once and you get it.
  • Unexpected – It throws you a curve ball that you weren’t expecting.
  • Concrete – It has names and actual events.
  • Credible – It sound real.
  • Emotional – It gets you in the gut – impactful stories evoke at least one strong emotion.
  • Transport – It transports you to where the story took place - you can feel the experience.
  • Human – It happens with real people.

I have quoted Charles Savage here before: “Innovation is like humour – it occurs at the intersection of the expected and the unexpected.”  The same principle applies to storytelling. 

One fantastic little story I heard a while ago that embodies these principles is a vignette in Bill Bryson’s book In a Sunburned Country:

In the 1950s a friend of Catherine’s moved with her young family into a house next door to a vacant lot. One day a construction crew turned up to build a house on the lot. Catherine’s friend had a four-year-old daughter who naturally took an interest in all the activity going on next door. 

She hung around on the margins and eventually the construction workers adopted her as a kind of mascot. They chatted to her and gave her little jobs to do and at the end of the week presented her with a little pay packet containing a shiny new half crown. 

She took this home to her mother, who made all the appropriate cooings of admiration and suggested that they take it to the bank next morning to deposit it in her account. 

When they went to the bank, the teller was equally impressed and asked the little girl how she had come by her own pay packet. 

‘I’ve been building a house this week,’ she replied proudly. 

‘Goodness!’ said the teller. ‘And will you be building a house next week too?’ 

The little girl answered: ‘I will; if we ever get the f***ing bricks.’

Life Explained

Keith September 30th, 2009

OK, so it’s not original – but I rather like it. Received by email from my son:

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican fishing village. A tourist complimented the local fishermen on the quality of their fish, and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long.” they answered in unison.

“Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?”

The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families.

“But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“We sleep late, fish a little, play with our children, and take siestas with our wives. In the evenings, we go into the village to see our friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. We have a full life.”

The tourist interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

“And after that?”

“With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”

“How long would that take?”

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years.” replied the tourist.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Well my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the tourist, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks, and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the fishermen.

“After that, you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends…”

And the moral of this story is: know where you’re going in life – you may already be there!

The Art of Business

Keith March 24th, 2009

I delivered a presentation yesterday that I really enjoyed putting together, and it was great fun to deliver!

The brief was a keynote presentation for Panviva’s annual SupportPoint User Conference.  SupportPoint is a “Business Process Guidance” system.

The brief was to deliver a Keynote presentation, and to set the theme for the conference: “Communication and Collaboration”.  The underlying theme that I used to couch this on was Creativity, and the importance of creativity in both leadership and knowledge work.  The slide pack is available on SlideShare.

I have used this as a good opportunity to shake off (at least some of) the shackles of PowerPoint – by using lots of pictures, and a lot less words.  Some of the photos are mine, and most of the rest are Flickr “Creative Commons – Attributions” licensed photos, all with links on the relevant slides.

As there are lots of pictures, some of the slides may not be clear without the voice over (which maybe I’ll add to SlideShare later).  The initial point is explaining my initial perceptions of creativity – influenced by the paintings of both my mother and my sister.  (See the post “Moving mountains” on this site for more of this story.)

The next section refers to the material in this post on creativity in leadership, and briefly touches on my thoughts on Change Management. I then go over some of my past experiences with a Knowledge Management Toolkit, and how we went about developing it.  The final part of the presentation picks up on a recent post on story at Anecdote, which includes a link to the story of “the one-armed boy”.

With that explanation, I hope it all makes sense, and that you enjoy this as much as I did!

Clancy on video

Keith November 5th, 2008

Well, as promised threatened, a video of “Clancy of the Knowledge Flow” is now available on YouTube. (If you want to skip the introduction, the music starts at 1:40 into the video.)

Read more about this on the previous post here, or go directly to the full list of the lyrics.

The child inside

Keith October 31st, 2008

“We go on being children, regardless of age, because in life we are always encountering new things that challenge us to understand them, instances where a practiced imagination is actually more useful that all laboriously acquired knowledge.” – Milan Kundera.

This is quoted from an essay by Shaun TanPICTURE BOOKS: Who Are They For?

C S Lewis has also written (in the Narnia chronicles) on the importance of retaining a child’s view of the world.  (Not to mention the biblical injunctions.)

I have recently completed the StrengthsFinder assessment.  The accompanying book by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton provides a brief description of how the human brain develops.  We are born with “a hundred billion neurons”, and we keep “about that many up until late middle age.” More importantly, these neurons form connections – synapses – with each other.

By the age of three, “each of your hundred billion neurons has formed fifteen thousand synaptic connections with other neurons.”  But from this age, these connection start to fall into disrepair.  “… between the ages of three and fifteen you lose billions and billions of these carefully forged synaptic connections.  By the time you wake up on your sixteenth birthday, half your network is gone.”

This may not be final – there has been some recent work on brain plasticity (by Norman Doidge in The Brain That Changes Itself) – but it appears that in general the connections within our brain do not change appreciably after that age.

However, Buckingham and Clifton state that our effectiveness depends on how well we capitalise on our strongest connections; the point of the book and assessment.

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Paycheck

Keith October 23rd, 2008

US researchers said they are able to selectively erase memories from mice in a laboratory, raising hopes human memory afflictions like post-traumatic stress syndrome can one day be cured. 

An initial step has now been taken towards the ability to erase memories.  This takes us one step towards the scenario in Philip K Dick’s story – now also John Woo movie, starring Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman – Paycheck.

In the movie, this capability is used for less altruistic purposes. 

Even though most science fiction writers deny that they predict the future, it is always interesting to see life imitating art…

Clancy of the Knowledge Flow

Keith October 21st, 2008

One of the highlights of this year’s actKM Conference was the Collaboration Cabaret. This is well documented on Serena Joyner’s site.

My contribution to this was a musical item.  It was introduced something like this:

Australia actually has a long history in Knowledge Management.  Over a hundred years ago, we had two key practitioners in the field – ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Henry Lawson.  They did some ground-breaking work in conveying knowledge of life in rural Australia to the emerging urban environment. 

They collected knowledge using Anecdote Circles (around the campfire) and delivered it as Springboard stories, often published in a major Knowledge Management publication of the day, The Bulletin magazine.

Tonight, we will look at one of Banjo’s key archetypical characters, Clancy of the Overflow.  Clancy works in an ideal environment as a drover.  The Narrator is contemplating his lot in his “dingy office”. 

We are updating the story: how would these knowledge workers fare in today’s collaborative environment?

To find out, read the full lyrics.  Breaking news: The video is now on YouTube here.

The Sunstone City

Keith September 26th, 2008

The first installment in a new fantasy adventure – my daughter Renée is now online with her creative writing – read it here.

Practice makes perfect

Keith September 25th, 2008

I wrote earlier this year about “Practice, Communities and Technology“.  This post stressed the importance of the “practice”: 

For a CoP to be successful, the community must become part of the practice itself… the community needs to become part of how they do their job.

People in an organisation will just not do things that aren’t part of their job accountability and that they see no point in doing. 

Just today I hit on a really neat metaphor to illustrate this…

Ares

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