Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Three stories about shoes

As part of a leadership course I took part in a narrative leadership / corporate storytelling session where we were asked to tell a series of three stories about our shoes. (It made sense at the time).

The first story was factual, and mine was mundane, restricted to the explanation that I was wearing trainers rather than shoes because I was expecting to walk a fair distance, and then that the trainers were a cheap and generic brand because unlike my children I didn't care which make they are.

The second story was supposed to include a fictional element; mine turned out to be wholly fictional: although my trainers looked like a pair, I said, they were in fact the remaining halves of two pairs. My speciality in sports was doing marathons the hard way, that is, by hopping, and so I was always wearing out one shoe faster than the other. In order to ensure that my muscle development was kept symmetrical, I always alternated which leg I used for each marathon, so the next one would be my left leg.

The third story was supposed to be fantastic; mine was just a bit strange. Once upon a time I was getting ready for a job interview, when I realised that my shoes were too tatty, and I rushed into the shoe shop on the way to the office. I looked at the black shoes and the brown shoes but none of them looked smart enough to impress. I had resigned myself to wearing my old shoes when I noticed the rack of trainers, and decided I might as well buy some. When I got to the interview, the panel was composed of three men wearing suits and ties. I was surprised to see that they were all wearing trainers. I got the job.

I think what's interesting about this exercise (talking for a minute with no preparation) is that is demonstrates how commonplace and instinctive storymaking is: you often hear self-described creative types going on about the search for inspiration and the dullness of normal life, but the truth is that ideas are plentiful: it is time to document them that is short.

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