APRIL 2010

         VOLUME TWO, ISSUE 4

3 Human Elements  Garlic. An impudent and full-bodied tuber with a distinct bouquet, most often consumed while still immature and tender. A close relative of the onion and the leek, garlic has been used throughout history in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Certainly nothing in its history suggests its current incarnation - as the foundation of a smelly festival that last year drew more than 100,000 people from around the world.
Of course, I'm referring to the Garlic Festival, held every year in the small city of Gilroy, California, known throughout the galaxy as the Garlic Capital of the World. Just in case you're planning a trip to sunny California, this year's 32nd annual Garlic Festival is being held July 23, 24 and 25 - mark your calendars accordingly. Having been to the Garlic Festival, I bear witness that you really can smell this small city before you see it.
There's a lot to do at the Festival - entertainment, arts and crafts, activities for the kids, even a beauty contest. However, with all due respect to Miss Gilroy, I think most people head to the Festival for the food. (Okay, that could just be me.) What's such a kick is to find garlic in things you just wouldn't expect - garlic ice cream, garlic and fruit smoothies, garlic jelly - I even came across garlic flavored edible underwear in one of the gift shops. The winner of last year's cook-off? Spicy garlic butter cookies with garlic goat cheese and honey.  Yum. (E-mail me at if you want the recipe.) The thing is...garlic works, in recipes where you'd never expect to find it.
It's the same in business. Emerging tools being used today to build a better workforce have their origin in places we may not have looked for business answers before. From the world of theater and music to the pioneers of intellectual capital, this month's e-musing challenges shines a light on storytelling, recreational music making and world cafes as valuable assets in a topsy-turvy world. 
Jennie Ayers
Principal, Challenge It Now 
collaboration cubes 
In This Issue
Once Upon a Time...The Power of Story in Business
Companies Save Money Using RMM
Take a Seat at the World Cafe
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
The Four Truths of the Storyteller
Peter Guber's in the business of creating compelling stories as a filmmaker. But the power of storytelling is also central to his work as a business executive and entrepreneur. Reflecting on lessons and ideas he experienced at a meeting of great leaders and storytellers, he concludes there are four kinds of truth in an effective story.
Truth to the Teller - The storyteller must be authentic, congruent with his story.
Truth to the Audience - A listener's expectations, once aroused, must be fulfilled.
Truth to the Moment - A great storyteller never tells a story the same way twice. They are flexible enough to improvise when the situation calls for it.
Truth to the Mission - A great storyteller is devoted to a cause beyond self. The story itself must offer a value that is worthy of its audience.
from The Four Truths of the Storyteller, Peter Guber, Harvard Business Review
"Once Upon a Time" by Rebecca Ripley 
Story has officially made its way into corporate America. If you enter "storytelling in organizations" on Amazon's book site, 91 titles show up. While stories have been part of the human fabric since early men and women relayed adventures and captured their essence in cave drawings, it's only in the last ten years that businesses have begun to embrace the craft.
Now, according to Peter Guber's 2007 HBR article, "the ability to articulate your story or that of your company is crucial in almost every phase of enterprise is this oral tradition that lies at the center of our ability to motivate, sell, inspire, engage and lead."*
Sadly, you're likely to reach wider acceptance if you don't call it storytelling.  Call it best practices or information sharing or even lessons learned.  When we call it storytelling, people conjure up visions of children sitting around some matronly woman who alternates from a whisper to a roar and who mimics sounds as prolifically as the experts on Prairie Home Companion. Nonetheless, we know that storytelling is the best shortcut to knowledge sharing we've got, so call it what you must, just do it.
collaboration cubes 
One of the early books on using stories in business was written by Stephen Denning of his compelling work at The World Bank.  He identified seven types of stories (From "Telling Tales" by Stephen Denning, HBR, May 2004 and his book, The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, KMCI Press, 2000).
  1. Stories to spark action and stimulate change
  2. Stories that communicate the identity of the teller and build trust; self-disclosure;  stories to get people working together and mobilized toward action
  3. Stories that impart knowledge, designed to build understanding 
  4. Stories to tame the grapevine
  5. Stories to foster collaboration
  6. Stories to transmit values
  7. Stories that pave the way to the future
Annette Simmons, in her books The Story Factor (Basic Books, New York 2001) and Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins (AMACOM: NY, NY 2007) identified six types of stories. 
  1. Who I Am Stories
  2. Why I am Here Stories
  3. The Vision Story
  4. Teaching Stories
  5. Values-in-Action Stories
  6. I Know What You're Thinking Stories
Why do stories work?  As Simmons shared in her books, stories validate the specific circumstances people experience and, at the same time, invite them to look from another point of view.  Rules alienate people who want to think for themselves, whereas stories invite them to creatively re-frame their dilemma.  A story can express two opposite sentiments.  "This news is depressing" and "I'm excited about the opportunity it offers us."  A story can show us that both statements can be true.  However, rational linear communication, so often used in business settings, would trap you into expressing either one sentiment or the other.  In story, there is room for both to be true. 
So...whether it's the launch of a new vision or capturing lessons learned from happy or disgruntled customers, how can you use the power of storytelling to speed knowledge transfer in your organization?
*Peter Guber, "The Four Truths of the Storyteller," Harvard Business Review, December 2007
Beating Stress...Literally by Jennie Ayers
corporate drumming  I remember spending time with a cousin in Kentucky. She was several years older than me and a surgical nurse and I loved to hear her tell stories about her adventures in the OR. It seemed natural that both granddaughters would follow her into the profession, although as I later discovered, neither made it past their first year of nursing school. It turns out they're not alone. The student drop out rate among first year nursing students is as high as 50% in some programs. And two reasons often cited for this high drop out rate are stress and burnout. No one can argue that the job of nursing is stressful, but we're losing future nurses to stress before they even reach the clinical environment. How can this situation be reversed?
Enter Recreational Music Making (RMM). You don't need musical ability to take part in RMM. And unlike "regular" music making, RMM promotes the enjoyment and well-being of the individual participant (or group) rather than judging the performance.
First year nursing students at Allegany College of Maryland took part in a research study lead by Dr. Barry Bittman, a neurobiologist. They engaged in six weekly one-hour sessions of group drumming, based on the Remo HealthRHYTHMS Group Empowerment Drumming® protocol. Burn out and mood dimensions were assessed with the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the Profile of Mood States. The outcome? After six weeks, the students demonstrated a 28.1% reduction in Total Mood Disturbance and statistically significant reductions in burnout.
Sounds good...but how does that translate into dollars and cents? An independent research firm projected that the average nursing school could retain 2 more students per year by using the RMM protocol. This translates to a $16,800 annual savings for the typical 105-student program and $29.1 million a year for all U.S. nursing schools. That's more than $29 saved for every dollar invested.*
In the hospital environment, the same analysis suggests greater economic benefits. Nursing turnover now costs the average 280-nurse acute care hospital $3.8 million each year. An RMM protocol could potentially help these facilities retain 7 more nurses each year, for an average annual savings of $322,000 per hospital or more than $1.5 billion for the entire healthcare industry - a savings of $564 for every dollar invested.**
Recreational Music Making isn't only for the health care professions. According to an article in the New York Times, "workplace stress costs the nation more than $300 billion each year." Burnout is one of the most pervasive factors that severely limits employee effectiveness and their ability to remain on the job.  Research now confirms that RMM can successfully reverse key elements of the human stress response...which underscores the value of Recreational Music Making as a human resources initiative that can be used throughout the work force.
How about you? Are you ready to re-energize your workplace, reconnect people to their goals and boost your bottom line?
*/** - Recreational Music-making: An Integrative Group Intervention for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in First Year Associate Degree Nursing Students: Insights and Economic Impact, "International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship"
Jennie Ayers is a trained HealthRHYTHMS drum facilitator. 

Take a Seat at the World Cafe by Janice Criddle 
world cafe  When we examine successful, healthy, competitive organizations, we find a culture of creativity and innovation. This isn't due to chance. Many companies have specific processes and principles that inspire a healthy, innovative culture.  For example, 3M encourages technical staff members to spend up to 15% of their time on projects of their own choosing.  Known as the "bootlegging" policy, the 15% rule has been the catalyst for some of 3M's most famous products, including  Scotch Tape and - of course - Post-it® Notes. 
For companies that don't have a "bootlegging" policy, how can they support innovation? They may want to turn to the concept of the World Café.

What's a World Café?
Put simply, the World Café is a way of hosting conversations to talk about things that matter. Groups of people, typically 4-5 to a group, sit at separate tables and have a conversation. They ask questions that are important to the company (or to their community, depending on their focus) such as "In what other markets might we be able to sell this product?" All the participants are encouraged to doodle or jot down key ideas on paper placemats or tablets. (Go all out and cover the tables in plain butcher paper.) After a set time (usually 20-30 minutes), one person remains at the table as the "host" and the others move on to other tables. As the participants change tables, they bring key ideas and themes to their new table; their new "host" shares key ideas and themes from the table's initial conversations.
After several rounds of conversation, a facilitator can initiate a whole group conversation, wherein "hosts" from the various tables share the ideas and insights of the entire group.
According to, "As a process, the World Café can evoke and make visible the collective intelligence of any group, thus increasing people's capacity for effective action in pursuit of common aims."
Conducting a successful Café Conversation is limited only by your imagination. Its format is flexible and adapts to many circumstances.  Experts suggest using the following guidelines, in combination, to foster collaborative dialogue, active engagement and constructive possibilities.

(1)   Set the context: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."  Clarity of the "what" and the "why" of your Café will set the foundation for success.

(2)   Create hospitable space:  As children, some of our most significant and memorable conversations were at the kitchen table. Creating a space that is warm, inviting and comfortable is easy and inexpensive. Last but not least, a hospitable space is "safe" where everyone feels free to participate.
(3)   Explore the questions that matter: Powerful questions that have relevance to the group's concerns will generate interest, energy, knowledge and insight. Powerful questions:

     Are simple and clear
     Are thought provoking
     Generate energy
     Focus inquiry
     Surface assumptions
     Open new possibilities
     Invite deeper reflection
     Seek what is useful

(4)   Encourage everyone's contribution: When a topic is important to them, people want to participate in the conversation. It's important to acknowledge differences and provide opportunities for involvement. Sample methods include Post-its anonymously stuck to flipcharts or using a Talking Object (i.e., an object that is passed to whomever has the floor; if you aren't holding the object, you must actively listen). Both approaches can help encourage input from thinkers to dreamers.

(5)   Connect Diverse Perspectives: Small round tables encourage conversation.  It's important to establish a process that shakes things up a bit. A series of discussion rounds where participants meet different people will facilitate a cross-pollination of ideas.

(6)   Listen for Insights: We all know the value of listening. The quality of listening will determine the success of your Café. Café conversations invite each person to express themselves authentically, and those who listen skillfully are able to easily build on what is being shared.

(7)   Share collective discoveries: Once rounds are completed, the time spent discussing the "emerging voice" or patterns will help the group focus on the essence of their work.
The World Café is proving to be an effective, growing global community of people, groups, organizations, and networks using World Café principles and processes to evoke collective intelligence and link it to effective action in pursuit of common goals.
Hopefully, you are already involved with World Cafes and enjoying the outcomes. If not, maybe you will be the innovator who introduces the concept to your company! Let us know if you need a facilitator.
3 Human Elements
Challenge It Now focuses its energies on a common goal - through consultation, coaching and facilitation, we help professionals in business organizations create and sustain a workplace climate where the positive experience of work is optimized, engagement is enriched and performance potential is maximized.
Please take a moment and visit our website at to find out more about us and what we have to offer. Or contact us for additional information at: 818.585.9553 or 818.429.0077 or 443.838.4327.