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The Power of the Tale: Using Narratives for Organisational Success

ISBN: 978-0-470-84227-0
320 pages
March 2002
The Power of the Tale: Using Narratives for Organisational Success (047084227X) cover image


" . . . I thoroughly endorse the book. . . Fairtlough is an excellent thinker."
Napier Collyns

"Takes Arie de Geus's thinking forward . . I have no hesitation in recommending it for publication."
Gill Ringland

"The most important aspect is the potential to legitimise the use of storytelling in a business environment . . and help management think outside the box."
Arie de Geus

Story-telling is one of the best ways for individuals, groups, organizations and societies to learn. Skill in story-telling and in other narrative activities allows us to understand complexity, live with uncertainty, communicate well and increase personal and organizational effectiveness. As organizations move away from old-fashioned command and control, they will increasingly need the bonds of shared stories, which create shared language, shared visions and shared values.
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Table of Contents


1 Stories in Action

Resistance to story-telling

How story-telling works its magic

Types of narrative

Ways of creating stories

Story-telling skills

Seven histories

The rest of the book

What readers will get from the book

2 M4 Technology -
Stories for Truth and Trust


This chapter

A theory of truth and trust

Practices and stories

Accept vulnerability

Seek empathy

Seek transparency

Promote dialogue

Avoid groupthink

Support truthful politics


3 AutoCorp -

Individual learning

AutoCorp: the past

AutoCorp: stories for the future

A training tale

A coaching tale

A mentoring tale

A cautionary tale about not learning


4 Themis -
Using Stories in a Professional Development Community

Lyn's story

Perspectives and practices

The history of Themis

A note on written stories


5 Matters of Life and Death -
Using stories in the National Health Service

Value conflicts

Embracing error

Trusting your judgement

A positive approach to dilemmas

Stories about stories

Barchester District



6 AutoCorp -

Facilitating change

Coping with complexity

Another virtuous circle

AutoCorp's change programme



Self-organising change at AutoCorp

An experiment in self-organisation


7 LIFT -
Stories for Innovation

The London International Festival of Theatre

Imagination, vision and stories

Stimulating your imagination

Making connections

The right space to tell the tale

Boundary spanning

Building an organisation

Expanding the vision

Renewing the vision


8 Kenya -
Scenarios for a Country's Future

The Mont Fleur scenarios

The benefits of scenarios


Story-telling and scenarios

Mount Kenya Safari Club

The research workshop

Detoxifying the mind

Further workshops -
Lake Baringo, Mombasa and Amboseli

The scenarios

Influence of the scenario project


9 Thinking about Stories

Story characteristics

Stories in organisations

Stories and learning

Stories and society


10 Tools and Techniques for Story Use

A note on ethics

Chapter format

Story-telling frameworks and starting points

Workshop games and activities

Developing your own skills

A note on story-telling and organisational research


11 The Future of Story-telling in Organisations

Key points from the seven histories

What we learned while writing this book

Story-telling and complexity

Respect for other people

Art and emotion

Negative possibilities

Story-telling and sustainability


Further Reading and Resources

Index of Stories

Subject and Author Index
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Author Information

JULIE ALLAN is a chartered occupational psychologist in private practice, whose work is focused on supporting sustainable individual and organisational development. She draws on a wide range of whole-system approaches, including gestalt and complexity, to help individuals address both strategic thinking and behavioural change. With a prior career in writing and publishing with the BBC, she is particularly interested in communication and applied creativity, and has recognised and put to use the vital role played by storytelling across all her working involvement, as well as in general life.

GERARD FAIRTLOUGH is a biochemist with 25 years' experience at Shell. Later he was founder and CEO of biopharmaceutical company Celltech, and has helped set up several other businesses in biotechnology and IT. Gerard has been specialist advisor to the House of Commons Select Committee for Science and Technology, advisor to the LIFT Business/Arts Forum and is widely published in the areas of organisation learning and innovation. He is currently a director of Xenova Group plc and Chair of the Advisory Panel of SPRU at Sussex University.

BARBARA HEINZEN is a geographer and freelance consultant in long range scenario planning and policy analysis. She specialises in working with organisations to help identify the driving forces of change in developing and restructuring societies. Barbara has worked with a variety of major multinational companies and public and voluntary organisations in Europe, Asia and Africa on both commercial and public policy issues. Like Gerard, she is an advisor to the LIFT Business Arts Forum, but also co-founded BEAD, Business Exchange on AIDS and Development, and is a Senior Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
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".... the approach allows management teams to think constructively, help personal development and can be used to explain complex issues." (People Management, 21 March 2002) 

"…definitely a book to recommend to those with curiosity…" (Journal For The Association Management & Development (Organisations & People)

"…The Power of The Tale is itself full of entertaining stories. The authors hope you will be entertained by the stories they tell, because while stories will aid your organisation’s performance, they should also be fun!…" (Management Abstracts)

"…an interesting and thought-provoking book, which I am sure will encourage many to attempt the story-telling technique…" (Personnel Review, Vol.32, No.3, 2003)

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