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Michael Margolis
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Hi Randal - No doubt, a story is dead on arrival unless it has creative tension, a reason for us to pay attention, and triggers our curiosity to want to find out what happens next. We have to get invested in order to care. Yet to think that stories need to be about problems, conflicts, wars, and battles is outmoded in my opinion. And goes to the heart of the change, that so many of us claim we're trying to create. So why are we perpetuating the old story forms? I'm reminded of psychologist Viktor Frankl and his work called logotherapy. As a holocaust survivor, Frankl became fascinated with why he and some of his peers made it through the horrors, while others around him gave up the will to live. He came to the conclusion that life is defined by the search for meaning. We either find meaning through (1) our acts/deeds, (2) experiences of value (e.g. art, love, transactions), or (3) suffering. When we feel the first two areas of our life are lacking or constrained or stymied...we're often really good at generating meaning out of the third area - suffering. Its probably also why we all have our Reality TV guilty pleasures, whether its Jerry Springer or Jersey Shore. I'm partial to Undercover Boss and the Amazing Race. Oh the drama. So why do we suffer so? Its the easiest form of the three meanings to perpetuate as a story. The other two paths require us to take responsibility for our lives and not becoming victims of our story.
Steve - There's no question that you're motivations and intentions have always been in service the highest truth. My own incisiveness is being directed towards the field and community of organizational storytellers. Ha! Can you tell? There's a world being re-invented out there...and too many of us are lamenting that we haven't been invited to the party. So we poo-poo the hipster kids and dismiss their habits as "cool fads", instead of joining in the conversation to explore how these new patterns are fundamentally changing how we connect and relate to each other. Our community has soooo much to contribute to this conversation its ridiculous! But it means we also have much learning to do. We all have to re-contextualize our work for new mediums and application. In so doing, we can bring storytelling into the mainstream of consciousness and understanding. If we want to be seen as relevant, we need go to where the energy and relevance is highest. That's always the best ingredients for a good story.
Deborah - you've got some great points about the new participatory culture of management, and how this is changing the story process! Steve - what would you say are the conditions that make it safe for a story to be heard and for it to flourish?
Steve - We very much are aligned in that same mission and very big story! I so deeply admire all your pioneering and bushwacking that shined a path open for so many others to walk through. If its real change we want, it can't focus on a rejection and judgment of what's wrong about management. The deepest source of resistance for anyone is when change is seen as a repudiation of the past. I think it behooves us to embrace a different approach to the "new story" process. I have a blog post you might find interesting called You Can't Change Anything You Hate http://www.getstoried.com/2010/03/15/you-cant-change-anything-you-hate/ Would love to hear your thoughts...
Bravo, Steve! I definitely relate seeing storytelling get out of the self-imposed ghetto that many of us inadvertently perpetuate. The Ping Pong Club is our own creation. If any of us feel on the outside or fringe, that is us being the victim of our own story. There is nobody to blame but ourselves. For too much of my life, I have relished in this glorious role and identity. If we feel we've been labeled the trouble-maker, as you state in your last comment, why perpetuate that perception with labels that celebrate the role? At a broader level - counter culture is dead, or rather counter-culture now has place in the mainstream. There is no dominant mono-cultured elite that control society's stories. Or at least that is now splintered, fragmented, and filled with vast openings for any of us. Same applies to any organization, where there is no single dominant story from management. Everybody has the power to have their story and perception of management. This is the crux of most business challenges today. Too many competing storylines. Now...If we have a story to tell, just tell it. There's a 1,001 tools to do so. If we want people to pay attention to that story, it better be worthy of attention - we need to respect our audience, and make it meaningful and interesting enough to their lives. I've taken my lumps on many occasions, and learned the hard way: the responsibility of being seen and recognized is ours and ours alone. We have to model it for others to follow suit. Respecting our audience...that's why I'm cautious of any "story frame" that begins with rejecting what is. However broken things may appear to be, you can't change anything you hate or reject. It will simply push and fight back. Simple law of physics, I think. We're just setting the larger story arc up for adversarial conflict. Which makes for an epic and romantic tale...and lots of unnecessary pain and suffering. People are already feeling the pain of disruption - selling more disruption is just plain scary and overwhelming. What we need to offer is safety and clarity - a path forward that creates more possibility not greater constraint or self-loathing. If your story is big enough, true enough, real enough, relevant enough, relatable enough, important enough - it speaks for itself. Paraphrasing street artist and philosopher De La Vega, "we have to start believing in ourselves and stop trying to convince others." Yet, its ultimately not about us. If in telling my story, I am telling your story - we discover that we are the same, and there is no longer anything to sell, convince, or persuade. Why does the storytelling community seem so afraid and doubtful of itself? And its power to re-story anything into reality? Are we perhaps too comfortable and attached to our existing story of being the outsider and the heretic limited to eek out a humble living on the periphery? Who wants to call the shadow into the circle...?
Svend-Erik - That's exactly the illusion that I'm eager to call out. Life is storytelling, so we need to stop even questioning whether its a fringe activity. Of course, if we don't believe it, how can we expect anybody else to? And if life is currently all about adaptation and re-invention, than storytelling is furthermore the foundational building blocks for re-making our world. Today's culture of social media only deepens this meme. Everybody is a storyteller - this is a cultural value that is reshaping the world, especially any part of the world that engages heavily with technology. With a camera, blog, facebook, twitter account, etc...we are all learning how to tell our story, and feeding the desire to find our identity, voice, expression, and connection with others. In the words of Avatar - I see you. That's all any of us really want, and storytelling is the prima materia in that process.
Steve - Not surprised that storytelling of course still plays an integral role at the heart of your work. As it should considering your trailblazing work. And I don't disagree that there's a new way of doing business that is a fundamental shift and evolution, with huge implications. My comments are about how we frame and message that story into acceptance. "Radical" is just that. A judgment. An affront. A thumbing one's nose at the establishment. However much you may feel that truth is on your side, nobody likes to be told that they are "wrong". Whenever we tell anyone they are wrong, the conversation is over before its even begun. I wonder if asking people to accept "radical management" is a hard story for anyone to embrace or buy into, beyond those who already embrace that label (and are likely on the outside) not the inside place of leverage. For years, my work and teaching focuses on taking anything new and different and translating it into mainstream reality. The key from a story perspective is not to emphasize its "difference" but rather to make it familiar, and to show how it relates to what already exists...As in a natural evolution of the past, as opposed to a repudiation of the past. As an outsider, innovator, maverick - we naturally over-identify with our difference and desire for individuation - yet if the goal is to move from the fringe into the mainstream, the key is to identify all that we share in common and to invite people into relationship with that. It's impossible to say - what's the alternative title and branding for "radical management" without exploring the story of what you're really trying to say and invite people into.
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Feb 22, 2010