The storytelling movement in business has really taken off. Hundreds of tertiary educational institutions offer programmes with story modules, a growing number of books on the subject are being published, many more businesses want to use story in their internal and external communications, and corporate narrative practitioners are growing exponentially. This is good news. After all, our cultures and psyches have built-in mechanisms to relate to stories. Stories are natural. We find meaning in stories, and they fulfil many functions, say Graham Williams and Terrence Gargiulo.
by Graham Williams and Terrence Gargiulo
Graham Williams (Haloand Noose) and Terrence Gargiulo (Making Stories, USA). Graham and Terrence may be reached at email@example.com
Clarissa Pinkola Estes points out: “Most stories are not used as simple entertainment. ... They are used in many different ways; to teach, correct errors, lighten, assist transformation, heal wounds, re-create memory”.
But most of the focus is on telling to win.
Usually, the emphasis is on:
The creation of an organisation's story for purposes of conveying its history and values in a way that appeals to, and forges an emotional connection with, potential recruits, potential clients, and other stakeholders
Teaching leaders to tell stories that convince and persuade followers
Teaching employees to use stories in order to sell a concept, product or service.
Storytelling carries the potential for misuse
As with so many things, intention influences the way in which we use stories: to build up or diminish, to create or destroy. A storytelling-to-win focus carries some potential for misuse – to manipulate others into doing what you want is storytelling in order to serve self. In short, used only in this way, stories become tools for the Machiavellian, the narcissistic, even the sociopathic.
On a much larger scale, “astrosurfing” (which takes propaganda to another level) is an attempt to promote self-interest and orchestrate opinion by attributing the views of a few to a many. The intent is to manipulate, deceive, and “imitate” grassroots opinion. The term derives from Astro Turf – synthetic carpeting. Dave Snowden says: