I had an experience many years ago that was life-changing – in the moment and to this day. At the time I was an organisational psychologist loving the work that I was doing. My clients were diverse and I had worked with many for years supporting them as they grew their organisations into great performers and great places to work. I was feeding my love for learning by studying Knowledge Management at Melbourne University and discovering a new way of looking at organisations.
I don’t remember what made me notice a Profesional Development program being run in Cape Town. Perhaps it was the mention of Dave Snowden – a knowledge management guru – or maybe it was actually the chance to combine my love of learning with my love of travel in a tax-deductible way. Whatever the pull was, I found myself jet-setting to Cape Town to join a group of strangers for 4 days to learn about the power of narrative.
From the very first moment I walked into Cape Town University, this felt different. As I moved around the room and met my fellow learners it became clear that we were all united by our strong desire to support and drive change but in such very different ways. I was surrounded by incredible people tasked with what seemed like overwhelming social change – stopping sex trafficking of children, raising awareness about aids, stopping child slavery….I felt so very humbled and incredibly inspired to be in such company.
Over the coming days we shared our stories and, whilst the scale of what I did was never comparable, our awareness of the power of stories to drive and embed change was ever-growing. We learnt new ways of tapping into and harnessing stories and ways to then make sense of the hidden meaning that lay beneath the words. We learnt compelling techniques like “the butterfly stamped” and “future backwards”. I walked away from that week with a toolkit overflowing with incredible new narrative approaches and an excitement about the power of stories to shape culture – in organisations and communities.
Many years have passed since then and I continue to use those narrative skills and tools. Through stories, we help leaders make sense of culture, values, and their own impact and I am always reminded of the deep and lasting impact of that moment in time that changed my story so long ago.