Squirrel Inc.: A Fable of Leadership through Storytelling
. Jossey-Bass . San Francisco
HD30.3.D462 2004 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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The preface expresses the book's thesis clearly: 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. The ability to tell the right story at the right time is emerging as an essential leadership skill for coping with, and getting business results in, the turbulent world of the twenty-first century. It's also a critical capacity for personal interaction and happiness with family and friends (xiv). Denning proposes here (1) to give advice on how to craft and perform a story that can spark transformational change in an organization; (2) to show how to deploy various kinds of stories in specific organizational contexts; and (3) to illustrate the impact of storytelling on our work and lives. Denning turns to fable because Over the centuries animal fables have successfully communicated complex messages to diverse audiences (xvii). The first section then is an exciting plunge into the challenge of presenting a transformational story, with lots of good positive and negative advice. Diana, a rising executive, learns to sharpen her story about the (partial) success of one squirrel who stopped burying nuts and starting storing them. She learns to tell it so that it is other people's story. She learns also then to ask the What if sort of question that enlists appropriation of the story by at least some of her audience. The second section presents seven types of organizational storytelling: to ignite action, to share knowledge, to get people working together, to lead people into the future, to neutralize bad news, to communicate who you are, and to transmit values. I got through 68 out of 182 pages and enjoyed what I read but had to move on.