The value of story-telling

One of the most impactful things I’ve read to date, is how we use stories to connect and make sense of the world: “The stories you experience shape your perception of the world, and your perception, ultimately shapes the stories you tell.”

As a child, stories encourage curiosity and imagination. They also help us to learn the intricacies of communication, social norms, along with the potential impacts of our actions and behaviour.

Throughout history, quality stories have been able to transcend generations. Fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and poems have helped us to create and share memories, develop empathy, and most importantly how to overcome adversity, and demonstrate growth and resilience.

Being captivated by a story has been described as ‘illuminating the city of our mind.’ - With our brain functioning on electrical pulses, when we hear an engaging story, it quite literally ‘lights up’.

Often, we might not remember the detail, but we do remember how the story made us feel.

As a risk and assurance professional, the best forums, courses and lectures have involved review and analysis of real scenarios, where risks have eventuated, life experience has been gained, and ultimately lessons learnt.

Some recent memorable examples for me include:

  • Ex-Wallaby captain Dean Mumm sharing his personal challenges, inclusive of testing his limits with a venture to the North Pole to raise funds for his charity Borne HMRI as part of our Greater Bank Risk Professionals program which aimed to get staff across the organisation thinking differently about risk;
  • Being absolutely glued to my seat at last year’s Risk Management Institute of Australasia’s conference as anaesthetist, and 2019 Australian of the Year recipient, Dr Richard Harris shared his perspective of the behind-the-scenes emotions and decision making of the Thai Cave Rescues; and
  • Having the pleasure of meeting, and working with non-executive director of PKF Sydney and Newcastle, Kylee Dare. Kylee generously shares her personal and professional story and experience, and is a passionate advocate of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. Any time spent with Kylee leaves you feeling supported, motivated, and privileged to have such a powerful, generous and inspiring leader in your tribe.

As competent professionals, we must continue to listen closely to the stories we hear. This includes slowing down, removing distractions, and taking time to consider:

  • What is really going on?
  • Why am I being told this information?
  • Does this get us closer or further away from our ultimate goal or destination?
  • What language is being used?
  • What’s not being said?
  • What’s missing?
  • What were the decisions made along the way?
  • What are the learnings here? and
  • What are the practical next steps that can be applied to help us achieve reduced risk exposure, and improved performance, and resilience?

In addition, we must also ensure we actively cultivate, and invest in both our tribe and professional development. Engaging with a diverse range of individuals, and reading widely, encourages us to stay curious, empathetic and focused.

With our ever constant competing priorities, I’d highly recommend taking a few minutes out of each day to slow down, and let yourself get absorbed in either telling or really listening to a story.

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