I’m working on the Social Learning design for an organisation today, and thinking about diagonal storytelling. Organisations can tend to be good at vertical stories (usually cascaded down within the formal system), and horizontal stories (often tacit, tribal, flowing out through closed trust networks), but lack really structured and integrated opportunities for diagonal dialogue. This is about cutting through the hierarchy, to create new storytelling, co-creative, and story listening, spaces and opportunities, all of which help the organisation to become more Socially Dynamic.
How do they do this? By sharing reality, across the lines. One fascinating aspect of the Landscape of Trust research is an apparent effect of trust flowing horizontally, not vertically, so to build broader, stronger, trust networks, techniques like diagonal storytelling can help to cut through the noise.
In terms of approach, we can use an active Storyteller role, someone tasked to seek out and surface stories, and we can design structured co-creative spaces for those stories to be shared within. For example, asking a diagonal group to write a story about ‘our future competitors’, or ‘how we are innovative’, can surface a variety of views, all of which may fall outside the view of any one individual within the hierarchy.
For diagonal stories to be written, we need to develop strong Social Leadership, so that individuals, at every level, can engage outside their formal power. And so that those same individuals can award social recognition and respect to the people, wherever they sit in the formal system, who contribute the most.