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Tell Me a Story

,business fable,,,,blind men,,,,,

Fables have grown in popularity to make sense of the business world. The Business Fable makes a story into a lesson for Executives – simple truths told in a story, a fairy tale, some folklore or a made up dream of the author’s choosing. The moral of the story is always a business lesson that was missed in Business School or Law School.

If you’ve read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Lencioni), The One Minute Manager (Blanchard and Johnson) or Who Moved My Cheese? (Johnson) you are familiar with the genre.  I’ll admit to reading a few, mainly so that I could talk coherently about what everyone else was talking about. But I’ll admit here and now that I never quite got what all the excitement was about. The points were valuable. The analogies and metaphors seemed overly simplistic to me. And weren’t we all a little bit smarter than this?

The truth is that fables, metaphors, and analogies work because they appear to simplify the complicated. (Managing isn’t difficult – it only takes a minute!) But the truth is that complicated things ARE complicated. While you can put things in terms that make it less difficult to understand, and easier to grasp, managing people is a challenge, team membership and leadership is challenging, selling required skills and experience, and consistently excellent customer service can seem impossible.

I use a fable in many of my programs to make a specific point: there are a variety of versions about the seven blind men (or blindfolded men, or men in the dark) who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part because the elephant is so large (the trunk, the leg, the tusk etc.) and when they compare perceptions, they are in complete disagreement about what an elephant is like. My point is that people (generations, genders, experienced, talents) see things very differently and believe they see things very clearly – which they do, but only from their own unique perspective.  Communication, empathy, humility, curiosity – are all things we need more of to be effective when working with/managing others.

Not only do I love the story, I think it makes my point. In one training session last week, I learned that almost half of the group had never heard the story before! A few people wanted to know what management book I had found it in! One participant thought it was an example of how stupid people are!

I always learn a lot when I work!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 at 4:55 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.