On Dec 7, 2016, Infinity Institute's founder Christopher Kabakis was invited to give a guest lecture at VU Amsterdam (Free University Amsterdam) to a group of 70 mostly Master's students in Organizational Development, as part of a course in change management, organizational diagnosis, intervention design and consulting. The talk topic was change, or more specifically “Promoting and institutionalising change via storytelling”.
In preparation of the lecture attendants were invited to prepare with the following three resources, in order to appreciate more fully the power of story - in organisational and business life, but also regarding personal psychology and in politics.
1.) Where does change come from? Zooming out - the big picture
The promises and perils of humanity's actions. What is change really, and what does it mean in the larger context of humanity’s evolution and every increasing complexity? Watch David Christian’s TED Talk “The history of the world in 18 minutes”, a tour de force through our evolution from the Big Bang to today and what our challenges and opportunities as humanity are right now:
So what is special about humans is their ability to share knowledge via language which then accumulates over generations, or: collective learning. And that process happens to an overwhelming extent in the form of narrative/stories. Formerly mostly around the campfire, today in schools, at home and in the media - also social media of course.
2.) What makes a hero?
The basic meta-storytelling pattern that not only Star Wars or Lord of the Rings follow but also most other stories - especially the most successful ones, and also stories of brands and within organisations is the “Hero’s Journey”. Matthew Winkler explains “what makes a hero” in his TEDEd animated video, starring also Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games):
Which hero stories are you familiar with from the organisational world? Who are famous corporate heroes and company villains (or failed heroes)?
3.) What makes a great talk?
What is the underlying talk structure that great orators apply, from Martin Luther King to Steve Jobs? Nancy Duarte shares "The secret structure of great talks” in her TEDxEast 2011 Talk:
So iterating between “what is” and “what could be” is what makes a great talk - and if you add great storytelling you can become one of the great leaders yourself, promote and institutionalise change effectively, and maybe even create a movement.
Want to see storytelling in action? And learn how to live before you die?
Watch Steve Job’s 2005 Standford commencement speech:
The guest lecture itself followed the following structure:
1.) Referencing the prep material & example of engaging public speaking (of which storytelling is only one element)
2.) Short clip that encapsulates essential features of a powerful story
3.) Introducing the function and basic features of story (themes & structure)
4.) The Hero’s Journey
5.) Introducing a 5-stages-framework to think about storytelling in an organisation (from the perspective of any intrepreneur/leader/changemaker)
6.) Analysing and tailoring your communication to the audience
7.) Introducing the spark line (Nancy Duarte) and what it does for you as a leader/ speaker/ changemaker
8.) Exercise: Choice of one to two of the 5 stages of any venture/change project (dream, leap, fight, climb, arrive) and discussion of two different potential attitudes of the audience (target group), from motivated to resistant.
9.) Watch & analyze the corresponding two examples of a leader’s/ changemaker’s speeches using the appropriate communication (speech & story) style to influence the audience.
For more information or talk requests contact Infinity Institute at info [AT] infinity-institute.de.