I’m off to Berlin today: as well as some smart clothes and a good pair of boots to walk around in, i’ve packed my camera. I’ll have some time to explore, and the experience of walking round a city, ferreting out the graffiti, and capturing a journey, is one that i missed during the pandemic lockdowns.
Capturing our story is, of course, one way of making sense of it: through a journal, and album, or even conversations with our friends when we return, we create our historic narrative and sequence, and slot all the pieces together. A trip to Berlin becomes ‘that time i was in Berlin’.
We make sense of things through stories, including stories that we ourselves are woven into.
This is relevant in many aspects of learning, leadership, and change more broadly. The recognition that our most valuable stories are the ones we are written into: memories of family celebrations, of graduations, weddings and funerals, of reunions and first dates. Also stories of frustration, of fairness, of kind acts and frustrating ones.
Learning is largely a process of fracturing and reworking stories: the stories of our certainty, our knowledge, and underlying power, stories of the conceptual blocks that underpin our sense of meaning, and the story of our constructed realm of understanding.
Leadership can be about the imposition, or nurturing, of stories, and specifically in creating narratives that people can weave themselves into.
Change is an imposition of a formal truth, but at the social level is the way we are woven around that: the stories of connection and commonality, difference and fear – the stories of knowledge and power, and the great big story of culture, surrounded by the many narratives that are counter cultural.
And if that sounds like everything, it’s because it is: even the hierarchy of the Organisation is a type of story.
When i describe Social Leaders as storytelling leaders, that is not to say that they shape and speak their own story: it can be about enabling others to find theirs, and helping the co-creation of a new level of understanding. And sometimes simply listening to uncertainty, hope and fear.