The Story Factor is now updated and available on audible as an audiobook. Fifteen years of perspective and a genius editor (Stephen Brewer) helped me cut it from 13 hours to 5 hours flat. Producers Jay and Michelle from Beyond Measure Media took me into a real studio and monitored sound quality and my energy levels to meet their high standards. I hope you like it.
In the Steve Jobs tradition, I thought I’d “connect the dots” between the obsessive research (you have no idea), designed interventions, and no charge experiments I’d run on any group of volunteers that would let me and the journey that lead to the original The Story Factor back in 2001. I was still in grad school when I attended my first National Storytelling Festival in 1994, but it was a long time I realized how important storytelling is or learned enough to describe storytelling as a type of “intervention.”
In fact, The Story Factor was the third book in a series of three intense periods of research and experimentation, design and testing that began with my search to increase authentic collaboration. In 1994 my mentor Dr. Jim Farr (founding contributor to Center for Creative Leadership) taught me how to deliver learning experiences using transformational self awareness techniques that improved leadership skills by blending soul-deep examination of intent and beliefs in a way that clarified their definition of success and for some, redirected the traectory of their life. So… the “team building” tools at that time just seemed terribly superficial in comparison to my experiences running these workshops. I was certain I could find a leverage point for self-awareness that would shift the negative emotions wasting time and resources with phrases like “not my job,” or avoided questions with “who wants to know?” I set out to identify what patterns work against team building: “When, where, how do we reject collaboration and why?”
For instance, in meetings, subtle messages like a stiff tone of voice, raised eyebrows, or strategically insincere agreements erode trust and decrease our desire to collaborate, share information, support, or even to save the game player from drowning down the line. So the first book, Territorial Games named ten micro-behaviors or repeated patterns from hundreds of executive’s true stories I had recorded and transcribed. Most answered first with metaphors like turf war, back stabber, silo or the thank-god-its-a-metaphor “pissing contest.” I’d point out the metaphor was not literally true and then ask “so what actually happened?” These true stories revealed a subterranean language of inclusion and exclusion understood across all cultures. My theory was that evolution designed us with insincts a/k/a emotions that compel us to acquire and protect territory: no longer hunting grounds and watering holes but the intangible territory that helps us survive and thrive: information, relationships, and status. Therefore a rational, cognitive desire to collaborate was insufficient without vital emotions like trust and faith.
So AMACOM published Territorial Games and give it away as the 1998 membership gift for joining American Management Association. Clients hired me to help plan mergers, de-escalate infighting, and unlock impasse. The games worked best with funny stories that neutralized defensiveness and increased self awareness. I provided an alternative story for the “who started it?” question to decrease assumptions of malicious or negligence, which is that these emotional behaviors are hardwired by evolution for survival. “If you play these games, it’s okay, its not your fault…but guess what…those people who you think deserve payback? It’s not their fault either.” This new story increased self-compassion and a reason to monitor behaviors that sent unconscious signals to back off. For those who are doing it on purpose – the list of games denied them plausible excuses.
Still, there were long term turf wars that would never go away until all the old stories were exposed to each other in a way that created a bigger story than the us/them causing problems. Back in grad school (1994) I had written my masters thesis on “dialogue,” drawing from organizational learning, systems theory, social psychology, In 1996 I got ahold of David Bohm’s “On Dialogue” and continued my enduring study of anything from Ed Schein on group process. Armed with this understanding, and the crafty little tricks I learned from my mentor, I wrote A Safe Place for Dangerous Truths: Using Dialogue to Overcome Fear and Distrust. It was an ambitious design for training a group (60 max, although it worked for 90 at least once) to a.) self-regulate by generating personal and group strategies for pre-empting what I’ve come to call “going to the bad place” and b.) shifting expectations to accomodate the feelings of uncertainty and sheer frustration of stretching your brain wide enough to see that everyone has a piece of the same elephant. In that book is a shapter on Storytelling as one of the “seven basic facilitator skills.” This is the first time I used simple drawings for common group patterns instead of words. It was a very successful form of visual storytelling even if I was not yet aware of it.
Everytime I facilitated dialogue I took notes to capture as close to a verbatim transcript as I could. It turned out the “faulty assumptions” groups decided to abandon were basically stories. And every insight a group dsicovered by examining their bigger story required could not spread from that group to the organization without it’s own stories and metaphors. I realized l was an awkward fish swimming in an ocean of stories. I wrote the The Story Factor to map the currents.
Fifteen years later, I took time to revisit, update and edit the maps in The Story Factor, producing this audiobook as a result. Let me know what you think!