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Storytelling for Agile

by Ben Linders on Jan 14, 2016 |

Oana Juncu will give a workshop on the benefit of storytelling in building learning organisations at the Agile Practitioners 2016 conference. InfoQ interviewed her about what storytelling is and how it works, the value that stories can bring, examples of narrative techniques that can be used in storytelling, and her experiences with storytelling in agile transformation.

InfoQ: Can you briefly describe what storytelling is and how it works?

Juncu: Storytelling is the art of telling stories. What is is the best story you have to describe a topic? What is the best story you can share on a topic? Our brain respond to stories and stories stick to our mind much better that charts and slides. It works as simple as that. And as all simple things it may be hard to build a good story.

InfoQ: What makes storytelling so important, what is the value that stories can bring to coaching?

Juncu: Albert Einstein said that "if you cannot explain it simply, you didn’t get it yourself". I use it with a twist "If you cannot explain it to children, you don’t understand it yourself".

Our brain is story-wired. We, as human beings, need to project ourselves in a story where we can be heroes. This gives us the flavour of an experience we might have. If it is a good story,it will eventually inspire us to make that experience real.

Effective change agents are great storytellers of great inspirational stories. So, as an Agile Coach, Agile Product Owner, Agile Change Agent or any other role you might have, tell the story of the change you want to be part of!

I won’t say that stories bring value specifically to coaching. Stories bring value to people because they are such a great engagement agent.

InfoQ Do you have some examples of the narrative techniques that can be used in storytelling?

Juncu: Storytelling is simple per se. The base of a good story is a good answer to these questions: What is the story about? Who’s story is this? What is the hero’s quest? What is her Status Quo?

Then build a narrative arch with answers to these questions. That’s all. You can start to tell a great story!

InfoQ: Can you share some of your experiences of using storytelling in agile coaching?

Juncu: I’m using storytelling in all of my trainings to create a learning space that sticks.

I also use storytelling in Agile Product Management coaching, as I believe a product that we develop is a story where users are heros. This approach is very much aligned with User Experience and User Centric approaches that I try to foster as a "way of being" for Agile Organisations.

And finally, I support teams I work with to create and tell their own stories, because ultimately a change that lasts is a change that is taken further by more and more people.

InfoQ: If readers want to learn more about storytelling, can you give them some advice what to do or where to go?

Juncu: My favorite resources on storytelling are the books "Wired For Story" by Lisa Cron and "Make To Stick" by Chip and Dan Heap.

I have written various articles on storytelling:

Also there is a lot of information on my site, about how I use storytelling in my work as an "Agile Business DJ": coemergeleanovation.com.

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