I’m looking through a document today that is 744 pages long and i know one thing for sure, I’m never going to read this document.
What’s the difference between the two: story.
One is a business document talking about repositories, artefacts, entities, capability and continuum.
The other is a biography of Guinness, that’s right a biography of the Dublin based brew. It’s a story of the founder Arthur Guinness, about his children and their impact on an organisation and the broader Irish society.
I’ll wrestle with one of these documents to get to the valuable lessons that it needs to teach me; the other book will teach me things without me even knowing it.
I was watching Griff Rhys Jones in Hong Kong on ITV’s “Griff’s Greatest Cities” last night (before turning over for “Outnumbered”). He was sitting in a class doing complicated mental maths in the blink of an eye. He was staggered by the speed that these kids could add and subtract complex number strings. What was the secret of their success, it was the teaching method. Their teacher had brought them up to use a special kind of abacus. Over time the teacher had removed the abacus and told the kids to imagine it. When doing their maths the kinds just pictured the abacus and read out the answer that it gave them. He had found a very powerful metaphor and the kids were exploiting it to great effect.
The other night I noticed a book on the bookshelf that I hadn’t read in a long time. It was a set of stories about a bear. This bear has taught me a number of lessons about life. This is a bear who says that he has very little brain, but there is wisdom to be found in his dealings with the other characters.
I spend most of my life simplifying things so that people can comprehend the essence of them and sometimes it’s to help them to subscribe to the vision that is being painted. I try my hardest to find a a story, a biography or a metaphor to communicate. These analogies have two very powerful results, they allow people to comprehend, but they also live on in peoples thoughts, they allow people to explore beyond the simple into the more complex. They can venture to the end of the metaphor, even if it breaks at that point, they’ve learnt something, if it doesn’t they can venture further. It’s a bit like a seed starting to germinate, as the leaves grow skyward, so the roots grow down into the ground.
I have one simple request, lets stop writing 744 page documents of business speak, let’s tell more stories.