Storytelling in Business: The Authentic and Fluent Organization

Storytelling in Business: The Authentic and Fluent Organization

Storytelling in Business: The Authentic and Fluent Organization

Storytelling in Business: The Authentic and Fluent Organization


Storytelling can be a lifelong and life sustaining habit of mind, a personal inheritance that connects us to our communities. It can also serve as an organizational inheritance-a management tool that helps businesses to develop and thrive. For more than a decade, award-winning author Janis Forman has been helping executives to tell stories in service of their organizational objectives. In Storytelling in Business: The Authentic and Fluent Organization, she teaches readers everywhere how the craft of storytelling can help them to achieve their professional goals.

Focusing on the role of storytelling at the enterprise level, this book provides a research-driven framework for engaging in organizational storytelling. Forman presents original cases from Chevron, FedEx, Phillips, and Schering-Plough. Organizations like those featured in the book can make use of storytelling for good purposes, such as making sense of their strategy, communicating it, and developing or strengthening culture and brand. These uses of storytelling generate positive consequences that can have a sustained and significant impact on an organization. While large firms employ teams of digital and communication professionals, there's much that any of us can extrapolate from their experience to create stories to further our own objectives.

To show the reach of storytelling, Forman conducted 140 interviews with professionals ranging from CEOs in small and thriving firms, to corporate communication and digital media experts, to filmmakers-arguably the world experts in visual storytelling. She draws out specific lessons learned, and shows how to employ the road-tested strategies demonstrated by these leaders. Although this book focuses on storytelling in the context of business, Forman takes inspiration from narratives in literature and film, philosophical and social thought, and relevant concepts from a variety of other disciplines to instruct the reader on how to develop truly authentic and meaningful tales to drive success. A final chapter brings readers back to square one: the development of their own "signature story."

This book is a pioneering work that guides us beyond the pressure and noise of daily organizational life to influence people in a sustained, powerful way. It teaches us to be fluent storytellers who succeed by mastering this vital skill.


My interest in storytelling stretches back into the last century to my early childhood when my maternal grandmother, Nana Betty, would tell me stories to coax me to eat. Spoon in hand poised in front of my face, she would tell me about the exploits of a giraffe, her lead protagonist (with an uncanny resemblance to me), who would eagerly stretch its neck up to the top of a tree for a tender morsel at certain moments in the plot, which she would emphasize by pausing; that moment in the story coincided with the moment she would put a spoonful of applesauce into my mouth, transforming me from a finicky eater to an avid listener and participant in the story as I began to catch on to the story’s pattern and my role in it. When I was a little older, five or six, she would walk me and my sister, Michele, through the streets of her neighborhood in Manhattan Beach (New York), introducing us as members of “Meet the Press,” which she would then point out as the longest-running show on TV (as it still is), and prompting us to tell a story about ourselves to her neighbors sitting on their front stoops, who were apparently eager to hear our latest autobiographical installments.

From the perspective of many decades later, it’s clear that this child’s play of story listening and story telling was serious business that generated far more than my grandmother could have imagined. After all, we make . . .

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