Tuesday, December 23, 2008 by Dave Blum
I was at a lecture last week and struggling to stay awake, which often happens to me at talks, choir concerts, opera, etc.  (Okay, I’m not always the most cultured guy in the world; give me a good football game any day!)  So anyway, there I am, thinking to myself, why are some parts of this talk putting me to sleep, and other parts causing me to sit up and pay attention? Afterwards, I concluded that the only times I really found myself alert were when the speaker was telling stories.

A well-told story has enormous power…and not only as an energizer.  We can all use stories in our team building exercises, to terrific effect!

At a NASAGA conference some years back, I was introduced to the “Story Spine” by a fine, young presenter–Kat Koppett.  One of my favorite team building ideas, the Story Spine provides an easy-to-use story template for trainers; it looks something like this:

“Everyday …
“Then one day …
“And because of that…
“And because of that…
“And because of that…
“Until finally…
“And ever since then…
“The moral of the story is…

Think about Star Wars (the original 3 films). Everyday, Luke works at his uncle’s farm, fixing equipment and dreaming of adventure. Then one day, two strange robots drop into his lap, with a message from a beautiful princess. And because of that, Luke ships out with Obi Wan Kenobi to save the princess. And because of that, he discovers that he’s a Jedi and that his father has a breathing problem. And because of that, he joins the rebellion. Until finally he destroys the Death Star. And ever since then, he’s a hero, actively opposing the empire.  The moral of the story is…I don’t know: don’t play chess with Wookies?  You get the idea.

I like to use the Story Spine at the end of my corporate team building activities.  Participants work in teams to recount the story of their day, using the Story Spine as a template.  Besides transforming their treasure hunts or scavenger hunts into a kind of fable, this activity helps people remember and relive the day’s key events and encounters.

And best of all, no one falls asleep!

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