Chapter One: Once upon a time

Jade Tipping

Storytelling is how human beings share information about the world – we have told stories with our voices, gestures and pictures well before there was the written word or technology. It has existed since the literal dawn of man. The collective memory that we all tap into is the product of all the stories told within a community. 

The Aborigines – native inhabitants of Australia – despite the challenges and hardships endured by this population, have an unbroken tradition of oral storytelling going back 50,000 years. They have passed down stories from parent to child – including genuine, scientifically researched geological events such as volcanic activity from 7000 years ago – their ancestors were eyewitnesses to the alluded to eruptions. I imagine it would help to know where the active volcanoes exist, particularly when you have no other technology or information points. Stories can deliver the information we need to survive and thrive

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Storytelling for Leadership

Consider the bedtime stories and songs you were taught as a child and that you perhaps share with near and dear little ones. The eensy weensy spider. Ring a ring o roses. Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You already know and remember the essence of these stories, even now, without them needing to be relevant to your life. Stories have staying power.

As this is the spooky Halloween month of October, I’ve recently been re-listening to a traditional murder ballad (poem / folk song) called The Two Sisters (also known as The Cruel Sister). It goes back to the 1600s but there are so many different variants -with different lyrics- that can be found across England, Scotland and Scandinavian countries that suggest a much longer history. However, the essence of this macabre story remains: there are two sisters when along comes a suitor who prefers the younger sister. Out of jealousy, the older sister throws the younger into water to drown her whilst the younger sister begs for her life. In the supernatural variant of the story, it continues with the son of a miller finding her body in the water and takes her out (sometimes she is still alive, but he robs her and re-drowns her) then makes a fiddle (or harp) from her body parts and hair. The miller’s son then presents the instrument to the older sister and suitor… when it magically plays and sings the story of her murder – the very performance you are listening to. Super creepy, discomforting and tragic. Stories make you feel.

Stories are a powerful way of packaging information in a memorable way that makes people feel – this builds an emotional connection to the story. Crafting stories is a brilliant way of communicating information that will resonate with your teams.   

Get in touch to discuss how crafting a compelling story or narrative could be used to inspire and motivate to achieve change in your organisation. Jade Tipping is a Senior Consultant in the People & Culture capability at Sysdoc. When she is not working with clients to achieve transformation or cultural change, she is a voracious consumer of TV, film, podcasts and audiobooks. You can contact Jade at [email protected]   

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