Staff Picks

The Value of a Good Story

Aaron Schleicher

August 24, 2007


How many times have you retold a good story? Likewise, can you recite the notes you took at last week's meeting? I am betting that's a bit more difficult.

How many times have you retold a good story? Likewise, can you recite the notes you took at last week's meeting? I am betting that's a bit more difficult. Without getting into a lot of psychology, cognitive learning theory, and memory discussion, I think most can agree that a good story sticks. We use our imaginations to create visual scenes and characters, and getting to "know" these people and places, the things those characters do and think, and the places they happen in, plays a huge role in our understanding of the ideas involved. By involving our imagination in the process, we actively apply these events to our own lives and experiences. Patrick Lencioni's new book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job is a fable. It also has a condensed version of the main points of the book at the back, after the story. I've debated with folks in the office about this format. Some wonder, "Why have the fable at all?" implying that the author should have only published these main, concise points, so that managers and executives can digest them, apply them, and move on. There's a point there, certainly. But here's where I see the bigger picture, and Lencioni's smart application of the content. The subtitle of the book is "A Fable for Managers (and their employees)." Lencioni presents a well-written, interesting, and relatable story that teaches managers some (not so new, but important) principles about management, but he also tells the general employee a good story about analyzing their workplace and their role within it. How many people right now are living in the same complacent, go-nowhere world that Lencioni describes with some of the characters in his book? Probably more than we'd like to think. Reading this story could help people understand the positive changes that could take place, those hopeful possibilities. They might have a conversation with their manager they never would have had previously. The book might even make them consider their purpose, identify their goals, and work toward a higher position in order to accomplish some of these new ideas they've learned. Or, it might make them realize that it's time to look elsewhere. After all, life is short, and we spend more time at work than anywhere else. But, you'd never consider this if you figured things were the same everywhere, and that your skills would never take you beyond your current position. Likewise, how many managers think they're doing what their superiors expect of them, but are really missing the mark in the grand scheme of things - for themselves, their employees, and their companies? This book clearly addresses that issue, and explains the solution, through examples and insight - cause and effect scenarios of everyday business life that all can identify with, no matter the size of your firm. I think there exists a stereotype that only business people read business books. But there are a lot of people who work at businesses that see themselves separate from this group. With Three Signs, Lencioni offers a book that everyone can benefit from: managers, CEOs, and general employees who are hopefully still looking for ways to make their lives better. It's these types of books that can take business thought beyond the typical audience, and inspire the minds of a much broader range of the workforce. I don't mean to imply that the book is fluff, either. Writing a story involves more work and creativity than reporting facts and data, and Lencioni does both here, quite well. Managers should appreciate this - a book that their whole team can learn from, themselves included. But, if you feel the fable is too much for you to read, simply head to the back of the book, and get your quick fix of insightful business ideas. For those of you who take this route, you're missing out on a great opportunity to exercise your imagination - a point the book strongly demonstrates the benefit of in content and format.

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