Organisations tell stories: some of them carefully crafted, beautifully illustrated and well intentioned. Others, blunt, careless and unfortunate. But all within the public sphere. These are the visible stories, with our sight and earshot, to some extent, under our control. Formal stories tend to be permanent: captured in emails, posters, minutes of meetings and institutional memory, they are loud and persist over time. They may be authentic, but can risk being written by committee or abstract from lived reality, but either way, they are a vital part of the inner working of an organisation.
But what about the hidden story?
Within the Social layers of the organisation, embedded within our communities, down at the coalface, sometimes out of sight and certainly beyond our control, there is a different layer of storytelling.
These stories reflect the tacit understanding of the organisation, indeed, they may be a direct response to organisational stories, but shared out of earshot. They are the casual subversion of the the formal story, contextualised to the everyday reality of the individual or group. They are often heavily grounded in lived experience and may be highly personal.
Often they are transient: if we don’t hear them now, we never will, because they are not formalised or ossified into written stories. They are not printed on posters or pinned to walls. They flutter through the conversations people in rooms or online. They are the daily chatter of the business.
Can you hear those stories?
What would you do if you could? How would you value and recognise them? What are you missing out without them?