Telling Your Stories: Why Stories are important for your team

room: Columbus GH — time: Wednesday 11:00-11:45, Wednesday 11:45-12:30
Level: Practicing

This is a highly participative workshop for delegates to learn more about collaborative and organisational storytelling. Personal stories will be told, retold and analysed, to investigate underlying values, through a series of collaborative story-games. Collaborative storytelling will be explored as an activity for team building, coordination and problem-understanding. Attendees will participate in generating ideas for a set of story-cards that could be used to help teams explore their own values, beliefs and concerns through collaborative storytelling around software projects.


We all tell stories. Stories surround us and shape our world. Stories can be the fairy and folk tales of our childhood, or just the mundane tale of “why I was late to that meeting.” Storytelling is a medium of connectivity and community: the stories we choose to tell reflect our beliefs, our values and our fears and are a powerful tool for coordinating understanding and transferring knowledge and wisdom.

In recent years storytelling and narrative research has undergone a massive revival: psychologists study the way individuals understand themselves and form their identity through the stories they tell, social scientists look at the stories told by groups and communities, while the field of organisational storytelling (within business and organisation studies) is daily gaining momentum into the study of how organisational culture, politics and change shapes, and is shaped by, the stories told by the individuals within it. While the implications and effectiveness of using stories as a tool for change is still under debate, the power of investigating and listening to them as a method of inquiry is undisputed. Looking at the stories that people tell is a powerful and illuminating tool for generating and coordinating understanding.

This session aims to engage with attendees in a highly-participative fashion; by working with participants’ own stories to look at values and cultures reflected by the stories told, to work with different interpretations of the same story, to consider collaborative storytelling for team-building, and to design a tool to help groups collaboratively tell stories together.

Structure of Session

Stepping through the Veil of Narrative (~20 mins):
This session will begin with a brief introduction to stories and storytelling, the narrative turn, and research on organisational storytelling.

Shared Fairy Tales Warm Up (~20 mins):
We all know how a good story begins… In groups of four participants will play with “Once Upon a Time” cards (see to practice telling stories together.

Shared Stories (~20 minutes):
In groups, each person will be asked to tell a story about a particularly memorable working experience they have had. Exaggeration and embellishment are allowed (indeed expected - we call this adding “colour”). The group should then agree on a favourite story to work with further.

Retelling and Reshaping (~30 mins):
Another member of the group will be asked to re-tell the story, again further exaggeration and embellishment are allowed. Groups will then discuss how the story differed: Which bits were emphasised? Does the moral change? Do the characters change? They will work together to discuss how the story could be reshaped and reworked? How could the same story be retold from the perspective of different characters in the story? Each group will be asked to generate a relationship map of the characters in the story, as well as map out and identify important turning points, story objects, and underlying values in the story.


Matching to Folktales (~20 mins):
Groups will then look at how the different versions of the same story match to the story cards in each case? What matches to which elements?

Redesigning the Cards (~40 mins):
The groups will then be asked to consider the “Once Upon a Time” cards. What in their experiences would they match up to which cards? Is a match-up always possible? Are there experiences which are missing? What could a “Once Upon a Development Project” card set contain?

Close (~30 mins):
Groups each tell their story to the entire workshop, summarise their suggestions for a “Once Upon a Development Project” card set, and discuss what they found interesting. We will then draw out what people might find useful in considering stories in this manner, as well as their thoughts on how this could be used by teams for formation, coordination, and problem understanding.

Learning outcomes
  • Learn about the stories you tell and about ways of viewing your experiences through a narrative lens.
  • Understand the different perspectives that can be taken on stories, learn to consider some of the differing ways that stories can be value-laden.
  • Explore collaborative storytelling as an activity for team building, coordination and problem-understanding.
  • Participate in developing ideas for a set of cards for teams to explore their own values, beliefs and concerns through collaborative storytelling.
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