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Experience Is The Best Teacher: The Art of Storytelling

We believe that stories make points better than simply stating the facts themselves because if the story is really good, the person telling the story won't have to state their point at all. The listener will listen to the story, think about what is being stated and figure out the point that is being made all on his own. The more the listener processes information on his own, the more he will understand the story and remember it. After all, human memory is story based. Howard Gartner, Harvard Professor, states, "A core competence of a five year old is the ability to tell a good story. It's the only way we understand the value of things."

Telling Stories at Work

Throughout time, managers have used storytelling tools for coaching and mentoring of their own teams in order to build teamwork and stronger performing groups. Trainers have used storytelling in technical training, new hire orientations, leadership development, and team development. Facilitators use storytelling in meetings as a way of introducing a topic thus setting the tone and context as well as making it more interesting. Instructors incorporate storytelling activities into their programs in order to increase retention and build fun, consistent methods for improving the learning experience. And of course, speakers use stories as their most important tool by creating interest, clarifying concepts, and deepening the emotional impact.

A recent Booz Allen review concludes, "Perhaps the most powerful role of stories today is to ignite and drive changes in management policy and practices". Storytelling is in fact at the core of the significant activities of every modern corporation as well as at the center of everything we do in public and private life. An important leadership skill emerging in the business world today is the ability to tell the right story at the right time, and it is every executive's job to make sense of the ever-changing business environment by using storytelling as a leadership tool. Noel M. Tichy, a professor at the University of Michigan Business School and co-author of the Leadership Engine states "Leadership is about change. It's about taking people from where they are now, to where they need to be. The best way to get people to venture into unknown terrain is to make it desirable by taking them there in their imaginations". Peter Orton, who spent 15 years as a Hollywood script writer and story editor before enrolling at Stanford to write a PhD thesis on the effects of story structure on audiences states, "Humans are storytellers. Stories enhance attention, create anticipation, and increase retention. They provide a familiar set of ‘hooks' that allow us to process the information so that we hang on them."

The Power of Action Team Success Stories

Over the years, we have encouraged our clients to not only actively record results of their TMG workshop Action Teams, but more importantly, to record the results in story format. This allows them to use these success stories to reward the Action Team members in addition to sharing their successes with others within their own organization and throughout the industry. Our quarterly TMG newsletter has been a great tool for accomplishing this goal. We've developed a short 16-question survey based on Joseph Campbell's concept of a Hero's Journey.

The survey is designed to facilitate the story writing process, and it guides the writer through the writing process. They provide this survey to maintenance and reliability professionals for their own use. You may opt to use the written story internally or share your success with others by approving it for publication internally or in external publications such as the our quarterly TMG newsletter or a monthly magazine like Uptime Magazine. (Click here for the list of 16 questions in the survey, as it relates to writing about Action Team successes.)

Telling Your Story

If you wish to tackle the process on your own, we stress that all good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. So, before you begin to write, sit and think for a little while about the beginning, middle and end of your story. Don't forget to include key factors such as the main set of characters, the problem, conflict to create interest, and a resolution. The survey form helps to organize this thought process.

Ready to begin writing? Start with the 16-question survey form, grab a pencil and paper, or open up a new file on your computer, and get started!

The Secrets to Good Story Writing

• Set your mind free and have fun and be creative.
• Write your story all the way through before you edit it. Don't allow the editor in you to dampen the spirit of the artist in you.

• Think about a story you like. What makes it good? Can you identify the main character, the setting, the problem and the resolution?

• Writing means rewriting. A first draft will never be your best effort. Write until you're satisfied with your story. Change and rewrite the story to make it stronger.

• Are you having fun? If so, that's great. If not, make it fun.

• Write about things you know.

The biggest secret to writing a good story: Practice, Practice, and Practice. Are you telling a great story? If you want to persuade people to change, get people to work together, share knowledge, communicate who you are, and lead people into the future, start storytelling!

Editors Note: We hope Sherri's article inspires you to write as we are hungry for new articles, case studies and YES - stories for and Uptime Magazine. If you are interested please send your ideas to and we will reply right away.

Article submitted by:  By Sherri Abshire- The Manufacturing Game

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