Lecture notes by Maja Kuzmanovic

Notes from the presentation on the panel “Getting your message across with a story”, for the Annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, January 2007

Stories are seeds of possible worlds. Of worlds that perhaps have been, maybe are now - somewhere else, or might yet come to pass. These seeds may contain actual or imaginary events…

And there are many stories in each of us…

Now we all know that people are not vacuum packed, sealed pieces of meat. We are made of semi-permeable membranes and as such, we are porous bags of mostly water, held together by stories. We also know that porous bodies have the ability to absorb and leak. So the stories are leaked through our many skins:

  • through our flimsy physical epidermis, expressed in the movement of muscles, facial expressions, goose bumps, smiles and frowns;
  • through our second skin - through clothing, a membrane between private, intimate worlds and the external, social worlds. These stories are visible in rips, holes, stains and tears;
  • echoing through the interiors, where there are many surfaces (walls, floors, table-tops) containing spaces in which stories travel and propagate, from me to you and back again;
  • finally, stories are embedded in built and grown environments. The spatial arrangement of buildings and parks guides the paths of stories in our daily life. In these environments, the stories become sedimented, sometimes forgotten, for centuries.

So there are many stories, everywhere, yet do we feel cramped and bombarded by them? I would say no, because stories themselves are porous. They are easily absorbed in many different media and they easily absorb events and other stories into themselves.

In contrast to clear cut statements, which are like vacuum-packed, dead chunks of stories, good stories allow us to leak our own experiences into them. Statements operate in an economy of scarcity, stories in an economy of abundance. Good oral storytellers don't make statements, but observe, interact and create a dialogue. They don't talk at you, they talk with you. Stories told by these people are authentic and unique. They are never told the same way, as by absorbing bits of us, they adapt and evolve. They are not top-down grand narratives in which we have to believe, but bottom-up grown, richly detailed worlds in which we can belong…

As I belong to this panel, I wanted to conclude this presentation by offering a few humble suggestions as to how to get your message across with a story.

  1. Think about creating not just stories, but situations in which new stories can emerge. In words, colours, or movements, through all our skins.
  2. Avoid claiming ownership of stories - leave them open - let them leak and absorb, let them become a source, not an end.
  3. Create stories able to incite smiles in people. A smile (according to Otto Roesler) is more than just an indicator of happiness. Think about what happens when you meet an old friend whom you haven't seen for a long time. At first sight, you both smile - a smile of recognition, benevolence and bonding.

Remember: Desire creates fleeting affairs, while bonding will create lasting commitments.

  • davos_stories.txt
  • Last modified: 2016-08-10 18:37
  • by maja