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Stories that Engage

Last week, I made the pilgrimage to Jonesborough, Tennessee. This postcard-perfect town boasts unbelievable views of the Smoky Mountains, but is famous around the world for another reason: it is the home of the International Storytelling 1010-core-imgCenter.

Every October, more than 10,000 storytellers and story lovers from all over the world descend on Jonesborough for one common purpose: to hear and to share stories.

It’s the biggest storytelling event in the world, and its subject matter is as diverse as its audience.  Family stories. Historical stories. Ghost stories. Funny stories. It seems that all you need is a stage, a microphone, and an audience… and the opportunities to engage through stories are endless.

What does this have to do with organizational learning? Quite a bit, it turns out.

Today, more and more organizational practitioners are asking questions about the use of stories to engage their people and their marketplaces. That was the subject of my presentation, which was titled “The Stories We Create: Narrative and Engagement in Organizations.”

Many organizational leaders have personally experienced the unique power that stories have to engage and create a shared experience and new behaviors… often without the defensiveness and resistance that accompany most linear and expository organizational communications. (For a thorough exploration of the topic, check out the rich body of work by former WorldBank Executive, Stephen Denning.)

Now imagine that you could capture the most powerful narratives in your organization in a form that is fully replicable, scalable, and engineered to create engagement and behavioral change.

That’s the idea of a Blueline Blueprint

1010-profit-imgHere’s the idea. You begin with an organizational need: say, to mobilize activity around a key change initiative; or to make the organization’s mission and values come alive for a new employee. (Those are just examples. What is the pressing need that requires action in your organization?)

Next, the learning and change experts at Blueline Simulations work with you to create a table-sized visual that is rich in metaphors, stories, and quantitative information.

The power happens when your people pull up a few seats around the Blueline Blueprint. They explore the stories, analyze the data, and link the information to their own experience. They begin to link their own stories to the need of the organization. Action and behavior change emerge fluidly and organically.

These are the same activities that have built communities around millions of campfires over the centuries… only here they are applied strategically to create engagement around your strategic need.

The best way to experience a Blueline Blueprint … is, well, to experience it. Give us a call at Blueline Simulations. Tell us the story of your organization… where it is today, and where you would like for it to be.

Then let’s work together to create a new narrative; one that is about meaningful work, engaged people, and marketplace success.

Learning Leaders are the Key to Reengaging a Disengaged Workforce

Your organization has much to contend with – uncertainty in the marketplace, changing customer behaviors, new technology, and employees that have disengaged.  That’s right – DISENGAGED.  The broad employee population may be thankful to have a job, but let’s face it, their focus has been challenged by the worst recession in three generations. In fact, research consistently shows that when employees are uncertain about the organization’s future, their productivity suffers. A lot of time and energy is lost as people discuss and worry about “what could happen.”

Active learning techniques such as simulations or learning visuals have been proven to engage more effectively than any other training medium. Now may be the time to refocus and reengage your workforce with one of these custom training solutions. Imagine the competitive advantage you could enjoy if all of your employees were focused on the critical success factors that your leadership has identified as the keys to achieving plan this year.

Many of our clients have enjoyed tremendous productivity boosts by utilizing our learning visuals (Blueline Blueprints) to facilitate their employee’s personal connection to the business imperative – why it matters, why it must happen now, the role that each of them must play, and the benefits to them collectively and individually.

In one of my favorite movie scenes of all time, Andrew Shephard (played by Michael Douglas), in The American President, chastises Bob Rumsfeld (played by Richard Dreyfuss), saying: “we have serious problems and we need serious people Bob, and your 15 minutes of fame is up.”  Given the current economic conditions, the role of the learning leader as business advocate is more critical than ever.  In the words of Andrew Shephard, “It’s time to stand up and support the business, the time for nice to haves is over.” If you are ready to lead, a custom simulation or learning visual may very well be the answer.