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Do authentic stories need to go through an approval process? In organizational storytelling it will probably be many more years before the majority of stories can be published without any additional approval process. If ever.
But seriously: What’s getting approved? The story’s accuracy? Maybe, but that should be called fact checking. What is really getting approved is if this story represents the image we want the public to have of our organization.
That’s good and bad, of course. Just because we want people to see us one way or another doesn’t mean that this is how they see us. Lengthy (and sometimes unnecessary) approval processes can discourage employees from sharing stories that might be worth sharing. “Why would I go through all those politics?” an employee might think. “Is it worth it?”
And people can just share their stories – unapproved ones included – themselves anyway. Setting up a WordPress blog takes minutes. Setting up social media takes seconds and chances are people are already using at least one network.
Then, of course, the question becomes if people want to live with the consequences from a story that’s being shared and that the powers-to-be didn’t appreciate.
And stories, even if not shared online, are very likely shared verbally already anyway. And then those stories are passed on and passed on and passed on until they get back to the original storyteller, who can’t even tell that this was originally his or her story. You know what I mean!
The answer to authentic organizational storytelling is probably somewhere in the middle of all this. Let’s dream for a second.
- Leaderships understands that stories will spread – whether they like it or not.
- Leadership encourages open sharing and uses those stories to make improvements in culture, processes and highlights successes.
Let’s not assume that everything people share is negative! It’s not. I have all kinds of good things to say about the day jobs I’ve held over the years – even during rougher times there were good stories.
- Stories are used to celebrate employees.
What if …
- Employees share their stories with a purpose: What can sharing this accomplish?
- Organizations set up a digital playground where people can share stories. These could be successes, ideas for improvements and even current struggles.
Imagine a world where coworkers might read about a current struggle that they weren’t aware of and offer after seeing the story.
Their tip helps solve the problem and a story of struggles has been turned into a story of success and collaboration.
Remember to share with a purpose, though. No rants allowed. “I hate Bob because he is so picky on what restaurant we go to while traveling.” has no purpose. Asking a question or sharing thoughts on how difficult it can be to pick a restaurant while traveling with a group has the potential to be worth sharing.
An internal playground is Step 1. Don’t be upset when something does end up being shared publicly. It happens already anyway. We just don’t see it necessarily – because it’s shared verbally.
Step 2 involves publishing stories for the world to see. Of course, depending on the business you are in there might be lots of proprietary information. We wouldn’t want to publish information deemed confidential. Depending on your business, there probably needs to be some review of content here.
But in some businesses it makes absolutely no difference if the public were to know the details of some of the inner stories.
This can help with recruiting, acquiring new customers and can even lift up worker morale.
Think of it this way: Somebody was featured in the newspaper or on TV in a positive way. This article will be passed around, talked about, some businesses even laminate and mail it to people. The same could be true for companies and organizations as authentic storytelling initiatives ramp up and evolve.
Stories are the lifeblood of connecting, advancing our lives and feeling good about our communities.
What are we waiting for then?