Sign up to get Steve Denning's FREE newsletter


You'll get tips, tricks and advance chapters from Steve's forthcoming book. Click here to sign-up for newsletter.

How to tell a springboard story

The Springboard (2000) provides practical guidance on how to craft, frame and perfom a springboard story. It also noted the importance of oral storytelling versus written storytelling.

At the same time, The Springboard also makes clear that storytelling is not a panacea for eliciting change in organizations. It can only be as good as the underlying idea being conveyed. If that idea is bad, storytelling may well reveal its inadequacy. But even when the underlying idea is good, there are times when storytelling is ineffective. The book describes occasions when the listeners simply didn’t grasp the concept at all. There were people for instance who listened to the stories, and instead of comprehending the underlying change idea, instead pressed questions and requested more detail. When this happened, it was clear that the audience was getting into a discussion of the explicit story. These were interesting issues, but they also indicated that the story had failed to elicit the implicit story, and so spring the listener to a new level of understanding of the possibilities of knowledge sharing and of the organizational change being envisaged.

Steve's subsequent books have continued the exploration and deepened the understanding of springboard stories and their role in leadership.

The Leader's Guide to Storytelling (Jossey-Bass, 2005) shows how springboard stories fit within a larger taxonomy of leadership stories. There is no single right way to tell a story. Rather, there are different narrative patterns that are useful for different leadership purposes, such as communicating who you are, or the brand, or values, or getting people working together or sharing knowledge, or leading people into the future and so on. The springboard story remains central to the most important leadership task of communicating complex ideas and sparking people into action, even with the most difficult audiences.

The Secret Language of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, October 2007) looks more broadly at the overall challenges of leadership and shows how storytelling fits within those broader challenges. Story isn't the only communcation tool available to leaders: there are also metaphors, questions, images, conversations, offers, challenges and so on. Which tool is most appropriate for which task? Why are some more effective than others in some settings? How does a springboard story fit within this broader framework? How do you put together an overall leadership presentation that has the best chance of sparking enduring enthusiasm from a difficult audience? This book addresses those questions.

Read the Introduction
Watch the video
& pick up these amazing gifts!

Join our on-line
discussion group:

the World
of Work"