Example of a Blog on P5: Helping story along & P6: Staging by David M. Boje

These are the 7 True Storytelling Principles:

  1. You yourself must be true and prepare the energy and effort for a sustainable future
  2. Make room: True storytelling makes spaces respecting the stories already there
  3. Plot: You must create stories with a clear plot creating direction and help people prioritize
  4. Timing: You must have timing
  5. Help stories along: You must be able to help stories on their way and be open to experiment
  6. Staging: You must consider staging including scenography and artifacts
  7. Reflection: You must reflect on the stories and how they create value

You can relate all 7 True Storytelling Principles to Walter Benjamin’s (1968) seminal essay, “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov”. See this online PDF https://arl.human.cornell.edu/linked docs/Walter Benjamin Storyteller.pdf

Figure 1: True Storytelling Framework (Larsen, Boje, & Bruun, in press, Routledge Publishers).

Walter Benjamin (1968: 90) tells several stories about “what the nature of true storytelling is.” 

Here I will tell the story of my leadership challenge: How to change my SOLO-leader style to an ENSEMBLE style of leadership?

I contend that his examples are about the differences between each ‘living story’ in a ‘web of living stories’ of the Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK) and differ greatly from our Western Ways of Knowing (WWOK) obsession with 90-second elevator pitches, info-narratives, and the linear beginning-middle-end (BME) narrative.

For Benjamin these ways of WWOK narrative are bringing storytelling to an end.

My main point: P5: ‘Help stories along’ is not a 90-second elevator-pitch, info-news report, or a BME-narrative. Nor is it a explanation of a series of events.  Rather, it’s a living story web, with layer upon layer of experiences (P2: making space for stories already there), in together-telling about the course of the world (P3: clear plot direction), in that IWOK harmony with Nature and community from generation to generation where one living stories ties on to the next, and so on. In P5 (helping story along) one thinks of a fresh living story when ever a tale comes to a stop.  This is also the point of using ‘conversational storytelling’ approach in the breakout room of the seminar. It is not Chronos-time (P4) but rather Kairos-time of the opportune moment. The other principles are there too.

Self-correcting in helping story along and experiments is all about getting into the encounters of conversational storytelling, the doing of inquiry (induction), and the flashes of intuition (abduction), while building your theory (deduction). The process of self-correcting comes from work of Charles Sanders Peirce, and is exemplified in the above dissertations.

Figure 2: How the 6 B’s of Antenarrative are ‘Helping Story Along’ (Principle 5 of True Storytellilng

Being-true in your True Storytelling means “Being-uncovering” of both the ‘true’ and the ‘untrue’ (Heidegger, 1962: section #219) This can be done by applying the 6 B’s of Antenarrative as in the Clam Shell image above. True Storytelling is “compelled by the ‘truth’ itself” (#213). There is a “science of the truth” as we uncover both untruth and truth in our lives at home and work. This is a method of disclosedness by self-correcting conversational storytelling (see Boje & Rosile, in press book by Edward Elgar publishing).

We used that method in the True Storytelling workshops, taking leadership out of its ‘untold story’ (see work by Linda Hitchin) into the self-correcting and self-organizing of together-telling.

Before you can do STAGING (principle 6), you must have the uncovered ‘new story’ of ‘Helping Story Along’ (principle 5). Do the embodied restorying work, then you have something worth staging to your audience.. Storytelling research we have done in organizations finds that these organizational systems (& societies) are both truth and untruth. We are socialized to be SOLO leaders living and working in ENSEMBLE situations that are increasingly heterogeneous. The result as Eric Zabiegalski puts it, we keep falling into Egoism or Group Think of homogeneous teams as we exclude others.

This is a picture of Grace Ann Rosile’s horse, ‘Nahdion.’ He is looking into the mirror, and seeing his ‘authentic self’ because ‘horses never lie.’ We used horses as part of embodied restorying way to reach ‘Heart-of-Care’

Table 1: 7 STEPS of Restorying with ♥ of Care
1. Recharacterize (authentic Self identity) ‘Time Travel’ to when you were at your best in crisis-situations of stress, anxiety, fear …
2. Externalize (re-label) Make the Problem the old story, not the person. E.g. Mr. Unsustainability, Mr. Stress, etc.; Travel to Sanctuary (safe place) to theatre room for image readjustment
3. Sympathize (benefits) – of old story of Mr. Unsustainability, Mr. Stress; Map the payoffs
4. Revise (consequences) – Map the Organization & Economic influences of old story/old stereotypes of you as Unstainable/Stressed
5. Strategize (Little Wow Moments of exception to grand old story); Time travel to reclaim best of you in Being Sustainable & Unstressed
6. Restory (rehistoricizes the Grand old Story by collecting Little Wow moments into New story)
7. Publicize (support networking) e.g. letter writing with supporters of your ‘New Story’ of Sustainability Awareness and Balance Selves in Ensemble relationships

More info at https://peaceaware.com, https://davidboje.com/eagle & https://horsesenseatwork.com

“Letting something be seen” as “the primary locus of truth” (33-35 in Kirkegaard). We work and live in sociomaterial relations, in Nature, in family, and in organizations. The main idea is that the living story web is embedded in the ‘sociomaterial practices’, in the routines of the working craftsperson (rhythms of work, habits), the weaver, the blacksmith, and so on, this artisans whose storytelling and and the routines are aligned. In WWOK time is treated as finite resource (as Chronos clocktime). In IWOK time is layer-upon-layer, taking time to perfect things. Walter Benjamin puts it poetically this way: “Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the ego of experience”. To me this is the essence of P5 (Helping Story Along). It is not in the big punchy narrative of a key event, a catchy phrase, and so on.

The living story “takes place in depth, in the boring routine activities, like the weaving, spinning, blacksmithing, pottery-making, and so on, where the self-forgetting happens. Its the rhythm of the work the impresses upon the memory, where the gift of livings storytelling is cradled in the milieu of work, in its most “artisan form of communication” and deep in the “life of the storyteller” (p. 91). “The traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way handprints of the potter goings to the clay vessel” (p. 91). What is this helping the story along, if not a native craftsmanship, perfecting things like one encounters them in Nature? Living story is the layering of experience, “that slow piling one on top of the otters of thin, transparent layers” that reveals traces of the storyteller” and its “through the layers of a variety of retellings” (93) that we are helping stories along. That is the True Storytelling of communicability of experience in the art of storytelling, a process in decline in WWOK, in the last few decades, in particular.

For Helping Story Along, Ask 6 Antenarrative Questions. Antenarratives is the stuff out of which a story or narrative is constituted. That means you can antenarrate in advance of having a narrative or story account to speak out or write out or act out. Antenarratives are pre-constitutive processes (Boje, 2001, 2011, and so on).

Figure 3: The 6 B questions of Antenarrative Practice

You can put the 6 B questions together to make a storyboard, of how you are restorying your leadership challenge. This gets you the ‘new story’ emerging in your leadership, so you can then STAGE it for an audience, now that you have it in hand.

Principle 6 Staging: You must consider staging including scenography and artifacts

Figure 4: Boje’s Leadership Challenge Example of Restorying, moving out of SOLO Leadership Untruth into a Being-True of his own ‘New Story’ of ENSEMBLE Leadership

My story. I was in little league and blind as a bat. I needed glasses but did not discover that until I was drafted in the Army. I was frustrated, anxious and fearful in sports. The ball kept hitting me in the head, when I played left field, the position they put the dud players. I became a solo leader, with a chip on my shoulder, and was not playing well with others. Beneath ‘me Being-in-untruth’ of what in Narrative Therapy is called the ‘problem-saturated account.’ My BENEATH was being-Stuck in the past, as I grew older, I expected not to get chosen on sports teams, then not to get chosen on any kind of leader team. So I acted out and it became my full-filling prophecy. As the BEFORE happened, and uncovered some Little Wow Moments where I actually was part of a team, part of a leaderless group, even a group of co-leaders. It was not often, not for long, and for small things. Those Little Wow Moments are exceptions to the Being-in-Untruth story I keep telling myself. So the Little Wow Moments were not enough to tip the balance, so I could stop being a SOLO leader, off on my own, never part of the ensemble. When I was in the Army, got glasses, I could see, and play sports. In the Army they often give you the job you are lest qualified to do. I had never played golf in my life, so they made me a golf pro. I learned to answer questions generals posed about golf. How do I correct a hook or slide? I read an Arnold Palmer book on golf. I said ‘try this interlaced finger grip to practice getting your swing aligned.’ They would try it, get good results and ask for more advice. I was still SOLO, but went out to actually play golf, my last day in Nam, and I managed to hit a hole in one on the Saigon Golf Course, in 1968, while a Sergeant in the Army, in the Vietnam War.

Figure 5: Boje the Golf Pro in Vietnam

After lots of stuff, a divorce, a bankruptcy, and so on, I met Grace Ann and she taught me to meditate (way into the BEYOND, got me to the seminars to learn to be with others, and to pull those forgotten little Wow moments into a ‘new story’ a new BET on the future. I was not there yet, but I was working on the BETWEEN, doing things with people I could trust and who trusted me, like Jens, Lena, and Grace Ann. The BETWEEN is the forestructuring, doing the preparing in advance, like putting networks together so as to make other things happen. My Bets on the Future are paying off. I am choosing my leadership futuring, instead of being-stuck-in-the-past. Its a life long struggle. I am still tempted to go SOLO, because face Americans are not brought up to be Ensemble Leaders. I like traveling to Denmark where there is more of an ensemble culture. Everyone working in groups all through schools, a social economy.

True Storytelling’s principle 6 of staging has to be careful about attunements. In Figure 1, Boje and the SOLO Leadership Stage is caught up in problem-saturation by Being-in-Untruth. Over the last few years he has has forgotten Little Wow Moments (BEFORE) where he actually had some Ensemble practices with Jens, Lena, and Grace Ann, plus others..  In the storyboard, Boje begins turning-towards the seedling, in the mutual There is a hidden, undisclosed, discoverable new story of their potential for Being-in-the-world together. There is self-correcting going on here along the Yellow Brick Road of their unfolding lives of Becoming a Heart-of-Care fore One another. Here we organize the antenarrative (B-notions) along the temporal (past-present-future) and generalizing-grounding axes.

Figure 6: There are 6 B’s of Antenarrative as Boje does the transformation and change from SOLO to ENSEMBLE.

The 6 B’s are Beneath, Before, Beyond, Becoming, Between, and Bets on the Future. The Fore-terms come from Boje’s interpretations of Martin Heidegger’s work.

Please see Marin Heidegger, we find a hidden staging message in Being and Time. We like this translation, https://www.mta.ca/uploadedFiles/Community/Bios/Cyril_Welch/Heidegger.pdf because the translator’s focus is on ‘attunements’. Our resident Heidegger expert Sabine Trafimow will tell about attunements.

What is our ANSWERABILITY to all the Homeless? by David M. Boje ...

Figure 7: Boje has turned-away and does not see the seedling peek through the soil. Can you see it?

Its all about choosing your attunements, as Heidegger (1962) calls them. Some translators call them moods, but that is such a bad way to translate it. Attunements conveys how the quantum energy field work, how we can choose to attune to fear and anxiety (sometimes necessary) but most time we can attune to understanding, and to the heart-of-care. Once you learn you can choose attunements or recognize and be aware of attunements rampant in a situation, you have options, you can navigate a little bit better.

  1. Understanding Attunement – Notice how Boje at stage-left is turned away from the seedling (frame 1 of storyboard), not seeing how it is budding from the soil. In the second frame, Boje begins turning towards seedling, but still does not see.  In the third frame, Boje is dazzled by the growth of the leaves of seedling. In the frame, at right, the light is on, and Boje is seeing something beyond the five senses of sensemaking. Here the truth of turning-away and turning-toward is featured in the staging. It takes anticipatory resolution, a primordial understanding of the existential, and actually Being-in-the-world of primordial Gaia, and its possibilities for life.
  2. Fear Attunement – in the storyboard, Boje turning-away is fear for the seedling, and there is Boje’s fear of being uncaring, not watering, not having correct PH, checking the grow light, not turning on the heat blanket, and so on. In fear, we are fearful of something. In Gangsta Gardening, everything can go wrong.

Here is an image of the attunements. It is a matter of assessing the attunements happening around you, and making a choice which attunements to bring into the staging.

The linear staging is too boring, too much structuring, the cyclical and assemblage are better staging, the spiral is our personal favorite but its virtuoso staging, something Harold and Lillian Michelson would know how to do.

Figure 8: Harold and Lillian: A Love Story (Netflix)

“Harold describes how he conceptualized the storyboards for the hotel room scene in THE GRADUATE: “I’m trying to get as many different compositions as I can without making it a dull two-headed monster or a two-headed screen of just two people talking and cutting back and forth, which makes it absolutely deadly. I don’t care how good the dialog is.” https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0585118/bio

Figure 9: Michelson’s staging of the leg-shot storyboard in the movie, The Graduate

  1. Bad Staging Attunements are 3 Lords of Confusion: ‘Re-Talk, Curiosity, & Ambiguity.’   Boje turning-away to these three attunements is the fall, the collapse of staging. In Re-talk the storytelling is too much chatter. In Curiosity the audience attunes to fleeting things, is floating and wandering about the stage. In Curiosity, attention wanders to interesting features, but the audience is not in direct-seeing. The three lords invite audience to attuned badly, in ways that are turning-away from the There, the Here, the Now and the Potentiality for Being Authentically Whole. This will not bode well for the seedling’s life potential.

Staging is Grounding in ‘do-be-do-be-do’ (Yes, its Frank Sinatra)

  • Assertion Attunement – is three things: (A) Pointing Out There, Here, and Mattering of seedling needs (you can guess) watering, wind,  & the right sun heat, Boje’s care (B) Making a Prediction (aka ‘bet on the future’) a definite seeing the seedling wants to live to be plant, (C) Turning-Towards is Boje Being-Towards the seedling, actually Being-in-the-World in together-telling (seedling & Boje) that takes foresight of the Bet, forehaving the Before of seedling having definite character, and for-conception of the existential foundation of Gangster Gardeners seed-starting in Arid Desert of New Mexico. In Figure 1, there is change in lighting, and clarity of the image
  • Language & Discourse – Often tried in staging, the results usually not good. Language & discourse attunement lead back to re-talk, re-write, and interfere with ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ beyond the five senses of sensemaking. Hearkening is closer attunement, the noise of life, a seeing that is not sensation, and advances naturally. To hearken very well in staging authentically, not in verbiage that is covering up the staging, like this here.
  • Thrownness and Collapsing of Staging – The 3 lords of distraction (re-talk, curiosity, & ambiguity) are necessary evils of staging, but when out of balance, the thrownness into turbulence is too much. Stagnation of staging takes over. There is a downright plunge into groundlessness, and the void, and the audience senses it.
  • Care Attunement – It takes a ‘Heart of Care’ to nurture a seedling, to its selfhood, its potentiality-for-Being all the plant can be in its worldhood. This means, “taking it all together” in the staging, you are disclosing a totality of existence, ontologically.

In sum Staging in True Storytelling is ‘dwelling’ in the do-be-do-be-do of action, Being-in-the-world.

“If, then, truth rightly stands in a primordial connection with being, the phenomenon of truth comes within the range a of the problematic of fundamental ontology…  Because being does indeed “go together” with truth…” (Heidegger, 1962: section #213, p. 273 in this translation).

That is the True Storytelling of Staging in its existential potentiality.

More at https://true-storytelling.com and True Storytelling (Routledge) book in press.

Appendix A: Background Material on Main Themes in Help Story Along & Open to Experiment (perhaps basis of a document to send people):

Some things to read:

Boje, D. M. (2019). Theaters of Capitalism: Creating Conscious Capitalism. Las Cruces, New Mexico: TamaraLand Publishing.  Review at https://www.cairn.info/revue-management-2018-1-page-667.htm or See Kindle

Boje, D. M., & Rosile, G. A. (2019). Conversational storytelling research methods: cats, dogs, and humans in pet capitalism. Communication Research and Practice, 1-18. Available online through research gate.

Boje, David M. & Rosile, Grace Ann. (in press). How to Use Conversational Storytelling Interviews for Your Dissertation. Edward Elgar Publishing. https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/gbp/how-to-use-conversational-storytelling-interviews-for-your-dissertation-9781839104176.html  and online version till published at https://davidboje.com

Bonifer, Michael. (2007). Gamechangers: Improvisation for business in the networked world. McKava Press.

Boje, David M., & Bonifer, Michael. (2018). IMPROV THEATER FOR LEADERSHIP PEDAGOGY. The Emerald Handbook of Quantum Storytelling Consulting, 51.

Larsen, J., Bruun, L., & Boje, D. M. (in press) True storytelling. Routledge. See http://truestorytelling.org

Rosile, Grace Ann. (2016). Tribal wisdom for business ethics. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Appendix B: Some basic ideas behind Principle 5:

  1. ‘Helping Stories Along’ is about Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK) not about Western Ways of Knowing (WWOK). IWOK is living story webs, and WWOK is elevator pitches, branding, and controlling a narrative launch.
  2.  ‘Helping Stories Along’ is about ‘Together-Telling’ coming together of an ensemble, not about branding a standard smart message or doing groupthink of Western Ways of Knowing.
  3. Kaylynn Twotrees defines ‘Living Story’ as having a place, a time, and a mind. Jo Tyler says a ‘Living Story’ is about ‘aliveness.’ The Living Story in the web of Living Stories is alive, and decides when it’s a safe space, a safe time to come out and play. It’s not about making it up, or faking it till you make it. Kaylynn works for months with a client helping them get to know each other’s living stories. She is helping, building the web of living stories together, so everyone sees their own living story in relation to the whole storytelling emergence.
  4. Helping Stories Along means engaging in storytelling conversations by being both dialogical and dialectical (a double movement of dialogical and dialectical), not the usual interrogation interview, not the usual groupthink
    1. See work by Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
    2. See new book (out soon) by Boje and Rosile on how to do storytelling conversations for your dissertation?
    3. See Boje, D. M., & Rosile, G. A. (2019). Conversational storytelling research methods: cats, dogs, and humans in pet capitalism. Communication Research and Practice, 1-18.  (Access at Research Gate).
  5. It is about self-correcting by being in the flow of the waves, using conversational storytelling encounters to do sensemaking and course corrections in helping stories along, and being open to experimenting, in a trial-and-error of self-correcting
  6. It’s about ‘Passionate Engagement’ being part out in the action, in the living story web, and ‘deep listening’ in the diversity of living story networks.
  7. It is ‘Open To Experiment’ in the day-to-day, in the everyday, getting out there listening, having storytelling conversations, testing by doing counterstories in the midst of storytelling conversations.
  8. Not just a tool, it’s an Indigenous Way of Being-in-the-World of relationships to community, and relations to Nature, and to the vibrant energy aliveness of all things.
    1. Its about building momentum by lots of experiment in little projects that have involvement with people, all along the way
  9. It’s rhizomatic like crabgrass, not hierarchical like tree branches.
  10. It’s about what happens in Tamara-Land, because you cannot be in every room, and rely on chasing stories form room to room (Boje, 1995).
  11. This is not selling a clever idea, its about selling what you do
  12. This is about Grounding in everydayness, joining in the action, having storytelling conversations, being pat of ‘Ensemble Storytelling’
  13. A living Story Web means everyone’s living story is included in the web of relations, in the grounding of community and Nature
  14. Helping Stories Along, means the ‘aliveness’ of living stories, how they peek out, decide if it’s a safe place, a safe time, then come out and become a character, become aliveness and agential.
  15. It is about Harold Garfinkel’s (1967) work on glossing, terse-telling, indexicals, and all the taken-for-granted of what is untold in saying ‘You Know’ and the ‘etcetera’s’ (Boje, 1991) yet is part of communicating intersubjectivity of untold stories left untold by those in the know (Hitchin, 2014).

Published by truestorytellingblog

David M. Boje Ph.D. is a Professor at Aalborg's Business College. He teaches qualitative storytelling science methods at Cabrini University in Philadelphia. He is editor-in-chief of the Business Storytelling Encyclopedia. Boje gives invited keynote presentations on storytelling science, water crises, and the global climate crisis, all around the world. Boje is Regents Professor and Professor Emeritus at New Mexico State University. He is a Director European School of Governance (EUSG) where Louis Klein is dean. He is member of the editorial board of the The Systemic Change Journal that is an ongoing conversation about ways of Governing the Anthropocene, and helping to set up a Sustainability Storytelling Lab. He is working with https://truestorytelling.org on sustainability storytelling, and convenes the annual 'Quantum Storytelling Conference' each December in Las Cruces New Mexico with Emeritus Professor Grace Ann Rosile (https://davidboje.com/quantum). Current printable vita at https://davidboje.com/vita

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