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Indian Art of Storytelling Seeps into Boardroom

USA Today, , September 19, 2004


Companies in their never-rest quest for the hot strategy have inadvertently backed into the art of Indian storytelling. While trying everything from Six Sigma to Zen, they never seemed interested in anything Native American, a culture that does not condone greed and is closer to socialism than capitalism.

That's a rather alien attitude to Wall Street. But Indian storytelling is catching on, whether companies realize it or not. They don't call it Indian storytelling, just storytelling or leader-led development, but the similarities are hard to ignore. Corporate stories are told by graying boardroom chiefs to intimate groups of up-and-comers.

Companies that use it, such as 3M, Ford Motor, General Electric and Barclays, have found it the most effective way to transfer certain knowledge to the next generation.

Business leaders are getting rid of PowerPoint presentations in favor of storytelling, Kyle Smith says, a Cherokee with an MBA from the University of Rochester, now president of the consulting firm RedWind Group. "How can you evoke an emotion with a bullet point?"

There is an obvious clash between the cultures of Native Americans and business. But they have found a common denominator: Knowledge is valuable, and those who fail to pass it along are dooming others to repeat mistakes.

Subjects Covered: business

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