My first words go to Blackblot and Gabriel Steinhardt – it is in the presence of patience, practical knowledge and a comprehensive methodology that professionals can feel safe enough to learn, to open the mind to new possibilities. I could see my classmates struggle while standing in the gap between reality and theory, going back and forth in their minds, evaluating, comparing and measuring. The same thing happened to me only with a slight difference – I was standing between disciplines. Yet Blackblot is not about theory alone. It’s about the practical path to excellence – wherever you start from. I’ve witnessed heartfelt discussions, honest and painful. They were all led with dignity to professionalism and true learning. The gap in reality didn’t change but the possibility of change was evident. We were given good tools for the voyage and a clear understanding it is worth our while.
The first two days covered the methodology and just like in storytelling, only after the last word was spoken did I realize I’ve heard a complete story. It left me curious about what is to come which, from what I understand at this point will be “ok, so how exactly do we do it?”
Back to my thoughts about storytelling:
We are all struggling with identity issues. Being titled ‘product manager’ does not win you any privileges over ‘storyteller’. At the same time, it does. We live in a world that appreciates what it can possess. What it can possess is lately dictated by ‘scientifically proven’. With all my respect to the desires behind ‘natural science’ and ‘social science’ still, what takes over is what can be condensed into “testable laws and theories” (Wikipedia). The world is seeking predictable outcomes so it can create assurance we are willing to pay for.
All the hype around storytelling turns the above paragraph into something rather strange, unless you find a way to turn it into something that can be condensed into testable laws and theories. Storytelling is subjective, period. At the same time it’s hype in the business world. What’s going on?
You can attribute the hype to the desire to influence. Many are seeking the golden fleece of influence as in possess and they can sense storytelling has something there. Tell the people a story and you’ll grab their attention, engage them and make them act upon your desire like the mice in ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. But even if you gave it a shot and even if you succeeded in engaging them, you might have noticed the business model of storytelling is not very scalable.
What to do? Create a product that is scalable and keep the hype. “Storytelling in __” “Storytelling for __” “__ storytelling” just fill in the blank: education, organizations, marketing, branding, higher education, leadership, comics, sand painting, journalism, cinema, mobile, smart phones. I know the list is a mixture but I have another question: what about storytelling in storytelling? All the above bring in or are the result of other domain experts realizing there is something in storytelling for them to imply.
Most of them, most of them, come into the domain of storytelling, look around, take a few things off the shelf, carry them back home and rebrand them to be their own possession. If you’ll take an academic that talks about storytelling in science and place her in front of a university class alongside with a storyteller, who do you think will earn greater credibility in the eyes of the audience? Who do you think they suppose can bridge knowledge better? The storyteller knows much more about storytelling but is almost mute is such a situation, unless he comes from the same background, which is not the common case.
Storytelling’s domain expertise is being intruded daily by other professionals with strong backgrounds. Most of them give nothing back to storytelling and if they do it usually means they respect it and understand they need to learn more about it. But talking about scalability, this is not the end of the story, no. Being an organizational consultant or a guide or a branding expert is not THAT scalable. Here come the guys looking for much more than standing ovation and they are waving the big weapons – technology. Technology is scalable, big time.
How is this connected to product management? Next post…