Formal systems are good at hearing known stories, accepted wisdom, whilst what they may need to hear are hidden stories. Stories of dissent, stories of challenge, stories that provide overlays of contextual meaning, stories of unfairness or confusion. Unfinished stories. Within any organisation, it’s easy to build formal narratives using dominant power, but those narratives sit within the confirmation bias of the group: they may be valid, but may lack authenticity, or simply be part of a wider meta narrative that is not visible to the formal power alone.
One technique for cutting diagonal stories through an organisation is to curate stories of difference: garnered through interview, through the formation of new and diversified social ties, these are stories that aim not for shared understanding and common consent, but rather to understand our shared differences and a broad perspective of our challenge.
Stories of difference chart the fragmented truth of our organisation: they may not be pretty, but they help provide perspective. And you can go further, by encouraging response stories, providing further frames to engage in the dialogue, progressively less formal.
Stories are powerful, but we need to hear diversified voices: not simply stories of power, but stories of subversion and difference.