Posts tagged Story
Fox Games

Fox Games © 1989 Sandy Skoglund

Please Note: "Fox Games": This work has been published with the permission of the artist and copyright holder Sandy Skoglund.

I was really delighted when Sandy Skoglund gave me permission to use a copy of 'Fox Games' on Photo-Dialogue.  

I'm always keen to feel my way into a New Year with a reflection on how things are changing for me, whether as a consultant, photographer or academic and towards the end of last year it felt like some seismic shifts were in play as I defined how I intend to work with Photo-Dialogue in 2012.  So, perhaps that's why it felt important to get back to 'Fox Games'.

Back in 2003, I worked with Ashridge colleague and author John Higgins as he guided me through a visual exercise using postcards that we had purchased from the shop at the Tate Modern.  As we spread the cards on the floor of the gallery, John asked me to describe my practice as a coach and consultant through the images.

'Fox Games' was particularly significant for me - I felt it showed how I saw organisations: grey, dull places where commerce took place but where the red foxes of emotion and feeling ran wild while remaining apparently unseen and ignored. The image told me of things that I intuitively knew but had, at that time, been unable (or unwilling) to clearly articulate.  In fact, as the product of a good deal of 'formal management training' and an MBA graduate, perhaps I had been 'educated' out of taking my own experience seriously.

Following my epiphanic moment in the Tate Modern, 'Fox Games' became the cornerstone of my Master's dissertation and then continued to set the tone and agenda throughout my PhD.  It has been a remarkable and significant image for me and continues to both provoke and inform.  Now, as I use imagery of various kinds to help articulate some of the unseen dynamics within organisations or to provide the basis for coaching inerventions, the Fox Games postcard travels with me to remind me of where my personal journey into imagery and vision began.

So, you might like to attempt your own piece of art-shop photo-dialogue.

Here is a simple process:

  • Immerse yourself in a problem, issue or dilemma.

  • Take some time out, relax, grab a coffee and visit your local art gallery.

  • Buy a few art cards, 8-10 will do. Buy anything that engages you - act intuitively - don't overthink your purchase.

  • Lay out the cards in a pattern that resonates - again - don't overthink the process.

  • Take a few minutes - what are the images telling you about you, your approach, how you are seeing the issue, what is the 'story' you are telling yourself?

  • What other perspectives become available to you? What insights do the cards offer?

  • Take a photo of your collection and the layout - on your phone will do.

  • Show the images to a friend (set them up as in your previous layout)

  • What do they see? What do the images and the layout mean to them?

  • Take a longer break - a few days or so - then review the images and layout again. What is significant to you now?

Good luck! Have some fun and enjoy yourself.  And be careful, an image might emerge that begins to set an amazing, compelling vision for your life and career...!

Let me know how you get on!

Storytelling Creatures

Geoff Mead

Last night I was at the London launch of Geoff Mead's new book 'Coming Home to Story'.

Geoff appeared on Photo-Dialogue a few weeks ago, telling stories of his amazing shoes, so it was great to see him in a different environment at the amazingly spooky Union Chapel in North London. Here he is with his book which, as a push-back to iPads and Kindles, is a lovely thing to have and hold.

In the opening pages, Geoff says:

"We humans are storytelling creatures. We spend most of our waking lives exchanging stories and anecdotes - at home, at work, at play. Telling stories is the primary way we make sense of our experience and give significance to our lives."

Indeed, the practice of storytelling is finding application across business coaching, leadership development, organisational change and academic inquiry. However, rather than outline the theory of this kind of intervention, Geoff's book takes us inside the experience of telling and listening to stories as well as his own personal oddyssey as a professional storyteller. It brings us fully into the visceral art and craft of his skilful and rather amazing process.

So, as the nights are drawing in... I'm looking forward to lighting the fire and settling down for a good read. Inside my copy of the book Geoff has written, "For Steve - Storyteller of the visual world..." which is giving me plentiful food for thought as I develop my own Photo-Dialogue story...

PS.  Aspiring authors might want to check out the Vala Publishing Coop who are putting community and a clear set of progressive values at the heart of their work.



Geoff the Story-teller

Geoff Mead, PhD

Geoff told us the story of his shoes.

He needed to quickly buy the outrageously expensive (now somewhat beaten up) deck-shoes when he found himself in an Adriatic sea port and was invited onto a gorgeous yacht by a glamorous millionairess he had just met in a bar.

We listened intently as an amazing drama unfolded... 

Actually, it turns out that the shoe story wasn't quite accurate... But he had another one... and another one... and another one...

Soon, we were all telling stories about our shoes.  There were feasible stories, outrageous stories, hysterically funny stories - and that was the point.  If we could imagine brilliant, compelling stories about something as mundane as a pair of shoes, what stories could we envision for the future of our organisations and how could we take the first steps to make that future vision come alive?

Geoff runs the Centre for Narrative Leadership where he helps leaders to tell the kinds of stories that genuinely engage and inspire listeners.  He says that leaders need to tell a story that is authentic and compelling though don't need to be flashy or particularly charismatic. There is a fundamental principle here:

"Be clear about the ground you are standing on when you claim that something matters: the truth is that if it doesn’’t really matter to you then, however facile or skilled a storyteller you are, it won’’t matter to anyone else either."

When we tell good stories, they act on us a three different levels: 

  1. They help us to make sense of our lives and define our sense of self.
  2. They build relationships, bringing groups and communities together.
  3. They free our sense of what is possible and desirable in the world.

It was a joy to tell the visual story of the group through the photographs I made - the participants told great stories of their own, engaged each other and developed their relationships - especially important for their worlds of cross-functional leadership and public-sector partnership. Significant, far-reaching stories were told as their collective vision unfolded...

I'm going to Islington next month for the launch of Geoff's new book 'Coming Home to Story'.

I know that Geoff travels as far afield as Japan, Spain and Canada as he tells his stories. I met him as he came back from a few weeks in Greece.

But, Islington... November? I wonder what new stories he will have about those shoes...?