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June 2010

Want An Effective Storytelling Strategy That Promotes Change? Ask Roger Martin

A recent blog post by Roger Martin on the Harvard Business Review website encourages organizations to stop being overanalytical in their approach to strategy - and to start using storytelling as a way of envisioning solutions that would make everyone happy.

Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, describes how corporate strategists spend too much time using analytical techniques to strategy. These techniques often lead to paralysis and are bound to be idea killers. He encourages organizations to take the strategic planning process less seriously and to think about strategic options as being a "happy story about the future."

The storytelling process would be less analytical by using a holistic approach to envision a better result. The focus would be on the "how" and "what" questions - "How would we see ourselves winning?" "What would have to be true, for this to be a terrific choice?"

Stories are a great way for organizations to engage employees in the decision (and solution making) process. All too often, managers are fearful to take new approaches to solve the same organizational challenges. Perhaps by talking to one another, asking the right questions - and focusing on stories, organizations may just find that the solutions to their problems were inside them all the time.

Does your organization use storytelling as a strategic approach to problem solving? What barriers might restrict employees in conveying their story?