Organizational Storytelling: Spring(board) your Change Forward

As this is the 3rd blog in this series, I’ve already addressed the importance of storytelling and tips for telling better stories. Those are all nice and interesting, but the real question is “how do I put this into practice?”. Organizational storytelling using springboard stories is a technique any team or organization can use with very minimal cost or investment. It’s a way to articulate your change journey (and destination) with a positive set of visuals for the future.

Springboard stories, as best described by Steve Denning, move people into the future by conveying a story about the past. It allows the listeners to quickly synthesize and understand a situation and spring forward to “what if”. And as they move to the “what if”, they begin to create their own stories that paint a picture for the future state.

There are a few guidelines for springboard stories (you can also refer to my previous blog for additional information or this synopsis of Denning’s book):

  • The springboard story must be a true story from the past.
  • It must be told with one protagonist and in very minimalist fashion (no long digressions!). Your audience should think, “I know/understand this!” or “this happened to me!”.
  • The change behind the story must be crystal clear. There should be zero questions about what changed.

Ready to try it out? Here are a few simple steps:

  • Identify the change idea you need to communicate. Examples might include “we’d like to promote diversity and inclusion in our organization” or “we’d like to encourage selling our individual services across all of our business lines”.
  • Put that change idea into one sentence.
  • Find a springboard story and tell it. It can be a personal story, but it can also be a well-known story from history or the news.
  • Ask your team/audience “What if” and “Can you imagine”. Encourage them to take the leap into the future.

Let me know how it goes! Using the past to leap to the future can give you an additional tool to facilitate a change.

Cheryl Farley