In my last post, Five Ways to Get Change Right, I mentioned a simple, practical, powerful, easy-to-implement method that helps drive ideation and collaboration. It's called “Jumpstart Storytelling,” a title coined by Seth Kahan, author of Getting Change Right.
Jumpstart Storytelling is essentially a guided discovery social networking event conducted in a compressed timeframe—one hour—and intended to produce creativity and collaboration directed toward a critical business issue. It works for groups of 10 to 100 (Seth says he’s done it with an audience of 2,500), and the session has four major objectives:
- Engage everyone in the business goals
- Accelerate collaboration
- Introduce each participant to 10-15 others
- Improve learning through high-quality idea exchange
These objectives are achieved over the course of hour in four easy steps:
1. 90-Second Stories. Each person in a group of 6-8 has 90 seconds to think of and tell a story, drawn from their personal experience, pertaining to the issue at hand. For example, if the issue is addressing the Gen Y market, you might ask each person to tell a story about an experience with a Gen Y-er, or a Gen-Y brand.
2. Rotate and Retell. Each person rotates to a new group and retells their 90-second story to the new audience. Participants are asked to informally self-assess and notice what changes and what doesn’t with respect to their second telling. (It’s really interesting when the same story is told with different words.)
3. Clusters and Chains. Each person is asked to recall the story that most impacted them, either because is was so compelling and moving, or because it was highly informative and relevant to the central issue. Here’s the fun part: you have to find the storyteller, place your hand on their shoulder and keep it there.
“What happens next is remarkable,” says Seth. “It’s a real-time demonstration of face-to-face social networking. The room appears to go into chaos as people search for others and move around the room with trailing chains and clusters of people attached to them. In short order, no matter the number of people, the process sorts itself out. The room is literally a configuration of clusters and chains, with those storytellers who made the most impact having the most hands on their shoulders.”
4. Plenary Share. Those with the most hands on their shoulders come to the front and tell their stories to the large group. What’s important to note is that these are the stories chosen by the group. Any remaining time is spent unpacking and decoding why these stories were chosen.
There are some clear and valuable takeaways from the exercise.
First, the storytelling establishes vital links between people. Those links are critical in creating an atmosphere of collaboration. Second, social networking is one of main reasons people gather at meetings, and this exercise not only moves the focus from the stage to the floor, but enables everyone to form meaningful relationships quickly. Third, true collaboration requires the capacity to embrace multiple, diverse, and often conflicting perspectives in order to build a collective intelligence that moves business objectives forward. Jumpstart Storytelling brings those differences to light in an engaging, non-confrontational, constructive way.
We all know there’s a huge emphasis on social networking tools—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter—as well as the powerful video (e.g., YouTube), mobile and cloud computing applications that aid in developing our personal and professional networks. And most of us are plugged in to all of those outlets. But in all of that activity, it’s easy to lose sight of what it is we all really want, of what really drives the widespread use of those tools, and what it is they help deliver and share more quickly and effectively—of what it’s really all about.
Matthew E. May is a design and innovation strategist, and the author of In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing. You can follow him on Twitter here.