Thursday, April 26, 2012


An experiential workshop for CEOs, Marketing Directors, HR Directors, and all who want to grow themselves and galvanise their organisations through the power of story.

Discover the psychology and pattern of narrative, and ways to make sense of issues using anecdote circles and appreciative inquiry, forge emotional connections to the brand, elicit metaphors as a deep research tool,developing emotional and social intelligence, promoting mindfulness and imagination within the organisation, and much more…

The event, facilitated by Graham Williams and Dorian Haarhoff, will take place at Eagle’s Nest Estate, Johannesburg.

Bookings: For more information telephone Amrita on 084 359 4527

Delegates will receive a free membership of The Halo and the Noose web resources, which include eBooks, Diagnostics, Articles and Multi-media ( ; and copies of Management Today.

They will work on a diagnostic to determine the strength of their organisation’s current competencies and application of narrative

There is an optional hour of Herman Charles Bosman on the evening of the 11th, and a further option (the following day) of a free half-hour individual consultation regarding possible solutions to delegate’s specific organisational needs.

A 16 page special corporate narrative supplement, containing articles on the untapped potential of story in business, the brain and branding, engaging employees via story, collective sense-making and the ethics of storytelling – may be accessed at

Halo and Noose Reviews:

“The Halo and Noose should be seen as an exciting further step in the long process of re-connecting business life to the mainstream of human history, experience and potential” Ralph Windle, founder/ director: The Creative Value Network

“This is the best book about leadership and business that I have seen in a long time. It is fresh, interesting, needed and written to reach out and touch the toughest part of each of us. This is not about story telling, but more importantly, about how we can all change our story and create a future distinct from the past”
Peter Block author (Flawless Consulting) and consultant partner in Designed Learning, USA. Masters Degree in Industrial Administration (Yale)

“A great piece of work which stimulates one to look at life differently - very useful for consultants, trainers and coaches who can draw on the various aspects of storytelling in ways that traditional methods simply cannot”Angelo Kehayas, CEO Profweb, Fellow Certified Management Consultant, BSc, and MBA

“I can’t remember when last I was so impressed with something. Wow! This book needs to reach the USA and the mainstream of business and societal conversation there. I am SO excited about this publication and even more excited about having this kind of resource available………..”Louise Van Rhyn – BSc / MBA / DMAN (Doctorate in Organizational Change), MD of Syphonia, and lecturer at University of Stellenbosch Graduate School of Business

Workshop participants say:

“Dorian and Graham, you make a formidable team and the synergy is palpable. You focused perfectly on the aim of our week end: emotional connection. Well done and thank you"

"Our sincere thanks for running a very different workshop that gently accessed and dealt with deep responses""Thank you for the gifts you brought. You made us laugh, you made us think, and helped us to unbutton hidden and untold parts of ourselves. Your stories, warmth and wisdom touched us all and your gifts will continue to multiply and spread. We were all made richer for your presence"

"Thank you for a fascinating time with you. It has opened up a whole new realm of thinking for me as to how I run my life, and how we communicate our business"

"Your approach is brilliant. I'm expanding on these ideas at meetings now"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Communal, Interactive Story

Help write a communal story.
Here is the way the game will work:
Everyone who participates is both reader and writer.
The opening few lines have been written.

The first person to "comment" adds a line or two or three as their comment. Maybe a paragraph.
And so we continue as the story unfolds. It may turn out to be long or short. There may be chapters. We don’t know what we don’t know.
And the title of the story will emerge somewhere along the way.
It's a 'novel' approach.

"Four am. I was sitting near the body. Doodling. Playing with a haiku.

Staring eyes. Frightened?
Stabbed, hit, kicked, abused. And blood…

‘Inspector Seymour, we need you over here……..’”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Get your Complementary Story Competence and Application Assessment Diagnostic Now:


Story has been around for a long time
“There have been stories and messages delivered across different media ever since the Cro-Magnon man figured out that mineral pigments like iron oxide and black manganese could be applied to the sides of rocks and caves. Whether chronicling life, communicating with others, or creating an inspirational image, there were stories being told”.1

“For well over 100,000 years before written language, humans communicated all key information, histories, beliefs, and attitudes through oral storytelling AND archived (stored/remembered) all of that information in story form in human memory. 100,000 years of relying on story architecture as our primary storage and communications system has evolutionarily rewired human brains. We are all now born hardwired to think, to make sense, and to understand through story structure and by using specific story elements”.2

Nigel Nicholson of the London Business School rightly points out that we find meaning in stories and narratives, not data. He refers to us as possessing a ‘fiction impulse’.3
And philosopher A. C. Grayling has said: “Throughout human history story-telling has been a central means of informing people about possibilities beyond their personal sphere, and inviting them to understand those possibilities better”.4

Story touches the whole person

Our lives are stories, and filled with stories. We are immersed in story from cradle to grave, sperm to worm, ancestry to after-life. Touched by story emotionally, socially, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Story connects us to our higher and deeper selves, to others. Give meaning, provide context, free our imagination and creativity.

“Stories have such a powerful and universal appeal that the neurological roots of both telling tales and enjoying them are probably tied to crucial parts of our social cognition”5
Recent research shows that story is the way to establish rapport, engage and mobilise the disengaged, that listeners suspend disbelief, reality-testing and counter-argument during the telling, that people prefer reaching their own insights, and that well-told stories stick in the memory and stimulate big conversations and action. People respond far better to stories than they do to facts, figures, statistics, bar charts, bullet point presentations, jargon and business-speak. When a story is told we enter what psychologists term ‘narrative transport’. And “When we have made an experience into a story we have transformed it--made sense of it, transmuted experience, domesticated the chaos”.6 Facts tell but stories sell. They are catalysts to learning and improved performance.

Story plays a role in the development of important life skills – emotional intelligence, mindfulness, imagination. Jon Kabat Zinn, pioneer of mindfulness in the medical world and neuroscience, in a recent radio interview7, pointed out that "Those trained in mindfulness/awareness light up the narrative network in the medial region of the prefrontal cortex and harmonise with the experiential network grounded in the body".
Jung wrote: “it is only when the human mind actively brings forth from within itself the full powers of disciplined imagination and archetypal insight that the deeper reality of the world emerges”. And the title of an article by PJ Manney needs no further explanation: Empathy in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy.8

We relate emotionally to metaphor words in stories. Researchers at Emory University found for example that "when subjects read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, became active".9 And Lindsay Starke reports that "researchers have evidence confirming .... that a sensory region of the brain lights up when dealing with even the most common textual metaphors".10

We live and breathe story. And as “Novelist Edmund White once wrote, ‘When a person dies, a library is burned’”.11

It’s natural. It happens without striving.

“There was a man living by the seashore who loved seagulls.
Every morning he went down to the sea to roam with the seagulls.
More birds came to him than could be counted in hundreds.
His father said to him one day: I hear the seagulls all come roaming with you – bring me some to play with.
Next day, when he went to the sea, the seagulls danced above him and would not come down”.12

Small wonder that business is fast latching on to the power of story

So, not surprisingly, the story movement in business has really taken off. Hundreds of tertiary educational institutions offer programmes with story modules, a growing number of books on the subject are being published, many more businesses want to use story in their internal and external communications. Jamie Smart of Salad Limited, UK, international NLP practitioner and teacher says, “Stories are the ultimate covert communications technique”.

Alas, not all use story ethically

Writer Dan McKinnon points out that ‘A halo has to fall only a few inches to be a noose’. Stories can choke, strangle us or free us, open up new possibilities. How we use them is important. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes has said, “Most (stories) are not used as simple entertainment …. (but) used in many different ways; to teach, correct errors, lighten, assist transformation, heal wounds, re-create memory”.
With wrong intention, tactlessness or deliberate misuse we can tell to win, impose, manipulate, serve self, lose credibility. We rob listeners of their freedom to interpret.
Far better that our stories be non-directive, open, honest, even show vulnerability. Then real sharing happens. Dialogue takes place. Snowden believes that "this is key to micro-narrative approaches, creating multiple interaction between many people and their stories".13

And too few realise the full potential of story to improve every part of their business

Narrative has a key role to play in every aspect of business – every department, every business process, in our relating to suppliers, stakeholders, customers. In brand enhancement, knowledge management, training, making sense of issues and challenges, communication, sales connections, scenario construction, change/transition endeavours, presentations.
Far too few understand, accept, internalise and apply this in the new age of story. We’ve come to realise this during our work using anecdote circles, appreciative inquiries, training, coaching, endeavours and interventions, and discussions with potential clients. Hence the development of the assessment instrument that follows.

Using the Assessment

In these notes and in the assessment instrument, we have generally (in order to avoid tortuous and complicated descriptions) used ‘Story’ as an all-embracing term that covers narrative, metaphor, personal anecdote; and biographical, historical, mythological, metaphorical, wisdom stories; past, present, future stories; fact, fiction. Nor have we taken pains to distinguish between oral and written stories. These distinctions are of course necessary in certain situations - but should not blur the principle that what matters more than categorisation or academic accuracy is the integrity and appropriateness of the story use.

The assessment is in two parts:
· Story competence consistently displayed
· Story application deeply understood and applied throughout the business

It reveals the organisations’ strengths, weaknesses and opportunities - in the area of using story in order to advance corporate goals. And its use spawns a number of outcome-measures including level of organisational competence (here we have developed a further set of story competencies with related behaviour indicators for individuals), brand reputation impact, value of sense-making responses, training effectiveness improvement, development of emotional and social intelligence skills, assertiveness………..
The assessment is best completed in the presence of an experienced business story practitioner, so that the nuances and niceties of each of the questions is well understood before being answered.

Terms of usage

We hope that the diagnostic is used widely and wisely, adds to the professionalism of business story practitioners everywhere, and promotes and advances the effective and ethical use of story within organisations. Proper use of the assessment and subsequent monitoring takes place within this measurement framework (click on image to view larger version):

The assessment is available for your use upon request from

We ask only that its source ( ) is acknowledged.


1. Rutledge, Pamela Brown, PH.D., M.B.A The Psychological Power of Storytelling January 16, 2011
2. Haven, Kendall Testing, One, Two: how do I know they're listening? © Kendall Haven 2011 Halo and Noose Articles Archive
3. Nicholson, Nigel Managing the Human Animal Texere London, New York 2000
4. Grayling, A.C The Heart of Things Orion Books, London 2005
5. Hsu, Jeremy The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn Scientific American Mind, August 2008
6. Okri, Ben Birds of Heaven Phoenix, San Francisco 1996
7. Kabat Zinn, Jon BBC World Service, The Forum 15/1/2011
8. Manney, PJ Empathy in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy Journal of Evolution and Technology Vol 19 Issue 1 Sept 2008
9. Paul, Annie Murphy Your Brain on Fiction The New York Times March 17, 2012
10. Starke, Lindsay Your Brain can feel Metaphors
11. Baldwin, Christina Storycatcher New World Library, Novato, Canada 2005
12. Osho The Man Who Loved Seagulls St Martin’s Press NY 2008
13. An email exchange with Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tell to Win and Win and Win

This post is an article from the Halo and Noose article archive.
Its aim is to encourage ethical story telling in business.
Halo and Noose members have access to articles, multi-media, narrative diagnostics, eBooks at a very nominal lifetime fee. A free monthly newsletter on all aspects of story in business is also available. Visit and sign up now

Tell to Win and Win and Win: A cautionary tale and a traffic light system for business story tellers…………..
by Graham Williams & Terrence Gargiulo

Storytelling has taken off

The storytelling movement in business has really taken off. Hundreds of tertiary educational institutions offer programmes with story modules, a growing number of books on the subject are being published, many more businesses want to use story in their internal and external communications. This is good news. After all, our cultures and psyches have built-in mechanisms to relate to stories. Stories are natural. We find meaning in stories, and they fulfil many functions. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes points out: “Most are not used as simple entertainment….(but) used in many different ways; to teach, correct errors, lighten, assist transformation, heal wounds, re-create memory”.

But a lot of the focus is on telling to win

The emphasis is on:
· the creation of an organisation's story for purposes of conveying its history and values in a way that appeals to, and forges an emotional connection with potential recruits, potential clients and other stakeholders - whether or not the espoused values are true
· teaching leaders to tell stories that convince and persuade followers
· teaching employees to use story in order to sell a concept, product or service

A recent book for example has the give-away title ‘Tell to Win’, and is endorsed by none other than ex-President Bill Clinton as follows: “……………masterfully demonstrates that telling purposeful stories is the best way to persuade, motivate, and convince who you want to do what you need.”

On a much larger scale, 'astrosurfing' (which takes propoganda to another level) is an attempt to promote self-interest and orchestrate opinion by attributing the views of a few to a many. The intent is to manipulate, deceive, 'imitate' grassroots' opinion. The term derives from Astro Turf - synthetic carpeting. Dave Snowden: "A lot of story telling practitioners are so wrapped up in the work they do that they believe story is inherently good and fail to realise that it's the core of propoganda and manipulation of ideas. we see the pattern at a nation-state level and in companies where orthodoxy starts to create a pattern into which everyone has to fit, a dangerous change to attitudes and ideation from where tyrrany will always develop".(1)

As with so many things, intention influences the way we use them – to build up or diminish, to create or destroy. A storytelling – to - win focus carries some potential for misuse - to manipulate others into doing what you want, telling in order to serve self. In short, used in only this way they become tools for the Machiavellian, narcissistic, even sociopathic. (a noose)

It’s time to exercise caution

Of course it is sometimes in order to use story to motivate, to persuade, to impress, to trigger a modification of behaviour, feeling or thinking, but we advocate a wider focus and more noble intention. We like the idea of a self-regulatory traffic light system for storytellers:

How the system works

click to view large image

Stories themselves are by nature in the neutral zone. However, with wrong intention, tactlessness or deliberate misuse we can end up in the potentially dangerous zone. In this zone we are in danger of trying to impose, being manipulative, self-serving, losing credibility. We rob listeners of their freedom to interpret.
And in the neutral zone, caution is needed. An entertaining story or joke, for example, often is told with the intent and expectation of eliciting a pre-determined response from the listener.
Far better to strive to be often in the positive zone, where the stories that are shared belong to both teller and listeners, create synergy. They invite the telling of stories in return; an exchange. They are non-directive. An open, honest, vulnerable, real sharing happens. Dialogue takes place. Snowden believes that "this is key to micro-narrative approaches, creating multiple interaction between many people and their stories".(1)
When people are glued together by listening and sharing, there is no need to impress, convince. A real emotional connection takes place. Things happen naturally. (a halo).

People are best convinced by reasons they themselves
”. Benjamin Franklin
A parable never tries to convince you. It takes you unawares, it persuades by tickling you deep inside” (2). Snowden points out that "a parable always carries with it ambiguity". (1)

Thus before proceeding we need to ask ourselves:
• What can we do to improve our approach?
• Can we introduce elements or motives from the positive zone – for example can inspiration and motivation come via the promoting of reframing, can we sell by bringing understanding, can we convince via the transfer of accurate, authentic purpose, information, knowledge and wisdom?
• Is our aim or intent to gain or/and to share?
Can we move away from 'journalistic-type' one-way telling and instead create a space for dialogue, feedback
This applies to all types of story, fictional or real, and situations. It comes down to maturity, an other-orientation, a clear intent to co-create and build, to “enlarge, enlighten, enliven”. (3) .......and enable.
Authentic story sharing creates attention, interest, has impact, attracts loyal clients and colleagues.

Two stories:

A committed disciple travelled each day to be mentored by his Guru, crossing a stream to get there.
One day the rains poured down, the stream flooded and became a river.
There was no way of getting across and the disciple sat down in despair, with his head between his hands. A sudden thought struck him: why not invoke the Guru’s power?
And so he stood up, chanted “Guru, Guru, Guru………” and walked across the river.
The Guru was hugely impressed. When the disciple had left, he went down to the river, chanted “Me, Me, Me…..”, stepped into the river and sank like a stone.

20 years ago, I was entranced by a Maggie Smith performance at the Globe Theatre in London.
Lettice, a tour guide, shows people around 16th century Fustian House, one of its features being a Tudor staircase to which the public is denied access. The Fustian family motto is “by a fall I rise”, derived from an incident where the visiting Queen of England trips on the hem of her dress at the first stair at the top of the 15-step staircase and nearly falls, but her escort John Fustian takes hold of her arm and saves the day.
Initially her descriptions are straightforward and factual, resulting in disinterest and boredom.
So she responds by embellishing the story. The staircase becomes “The Staircase of Advancement!” Now the Queen’s dress has 100 precious pearls sewn in, a gift from a Sultan, and the heaviness of the dress caused her to stumble. Fustian rushes to the rescue, and is given a knighthood for his noble act.
Lettice’s story continues to grow as she succeeds in giving her tourists a more interesting and memorable experience. The staircase becomes “indisputedly the most famous staircase in England!” The Virgin Queen of England is garlanded by diamonds gifted by Czar Ivan the Terrible. Now when she trips and is sure to be maimed or killed, John Fustian leaps from the bottom to the top in a single, mighty bound to save her, “catches her in his loyal arms, raises her high above his head, and rose-cheeked with triumph cries up to her: ‘Adored Majesty! Adored and Endored Majesty! Fear not! You are safe!”, much to the enjoyment of the tourists, who applaud loudly.
Lettice is found out, and fired for her unethical behaviour.
What matters most to me after all these years is the unforgettable watchword handed down to Lettice by her mother: “Enlarge! Enliven! Enlighten!” (3) As well as how we get there!
Surely guiding principles for all corporate storytellers.


1.An email exchange with Dave Snowden, Founder and Chief Scientic Officer of Cognitive-Edge Pte Ltd
2. Osho The Man who Loved Seagulls St Martin’s Griffin NY 2008
3. Shaffer, Peter Lettice and Lovage Andre Deutsch, London 1998