Do you have a collaborative culture? One where people are open to others’ ideas? Where individuals consider how their colleagues’ ideas can work, rather than instantly pointing out why they won’t work? A culture where people are comfortable expressing even “far out” thoughts, knowing that it’s safe because everyone realizes that sometimes the farthest out ideas are the ones that spark absolutely brilliant new products or services?
If you don’t have a collaborative culture but want to build one, storytelling is a tool you can’t do without. By sharing stories with one another–where you came from, why you believe what you believe, how you learned valuable lessons about work and life–you get to know one another, discover shared values and interests–and build strong connections. The bonds developed over time through workplace story swaps lead to a strong sense of “being in this together” and motivate people to listen carefully to one another. They will begin to treat treat one another with more respect and will develop a ready willingness to collaborate and help one other. I’ve seen this happen time and again when leading work teams through my Corporate Storytelling® system.
Listening to others’ stories is a crucial component of the process. As Nelson Farris, Nike’s official storyteller for many years, says the company’s success “is based on collaboration, and the only way you’re going to collaborate is to talk to each other. That means you have to talk and then listen.
“Listening is huge. If we don’t listen, then the collaboration begins to disintegrate.”
Here are a few steps to get started with storytelling to build a collaborative culture:
- Tell a well-developed organizational story, or a personal “lesson learned” story that conveys your values, your mission and your specific goals
- Tell this story–and others you develop–repeatedly and systematically
- Train others in your organization on how to tell stories
- Underscore to your employees and other stakeholders the importance of telling values-based stories
- Incorporate storytelling in regularly held meetings