Passport to the 21st Century
John Seely Brown, Steve Denning, 
Katalina Groh, Larry Prusak: 
Some of the world's leading thinkers
explore the role of storytelling in the world

 I Introduction to storytelling I John Seely Brown on science I Steve Denning on change I Katalina Groh on video
Larry Prusak on organization I Discussion I | Contact us | Bibliography on storytelling

The film-maker as storyteller: Katalina Groh

    When Steve Denning sent me his book, I began reading it and I started laughing on the very first page. It opened with a quote from Albert Einstein:
“If the idea at first is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

    I liked that so much because it was the week that I was launching the series, Real People, Real Stories. I had just trademarked the title. Everyone thought it was a very strange idea for a video series. I wasn’t too worried about that, as I knew that Ben Zander was entertaining. So I thought it would do o.k.. But I was unsure of the response from the global education market for a whole series based 

on storytelling itself. 

   We launched the series that very week, and it seemed like an absurd idea.  It was marketed as a series on storytelling. And the series is now going to 75 countries in 35 languages. It’s had the most successful first 3-month release from this distributor in 15 years. All these people are buying it without even previewing it, or even asking to preview it, before it came out. And now it’s gotten a really nice response even though it’s something different. Which is exciting. 


    What’s also exciting is that so many people worked on this. I’m the producer and I start out with a concept. But there are many others involved, including focus groups with about 30-40 people within our group looking at the film at different stages while we’re making it.

    Last night I really enjoyed hearing the reactions of people watching the film, especially because they were so diverse. I always enjoy getting responses from people: what they learned from it, and what it makes them think about. In fact, we also learned the most from hearing responses of the kind, “This is not what it’s like at work!”. Most people here are not musicians. That’s not the environment that a lot of people are in. But we always learn the most from these responses. These reactions helped us realize that we have so many different audiences that we are creating the stories for. 


    One of the most difficult parts is deciding what to leave in the video. After we had spent weeks doing the Zander video, researching it, and doing nine film shoots, with several cameras. We had many hours of footage, from which we were going to cut a 26 minute film. When we were editing the film, John Seely Brown offered to come by and look at the material with our two editors and help with the editing. At first, he was excited and said things like, “Oh such great stuff!” And then, as we saw more and more tape, his attitude change. I wouldn’t say that he was upset. Rather he was consumed by the volume of it, and he would say things like, “What are we going to do from all of this?”

    And that’s the question we always come back to: what are we trying to do? There are a lot of great stories there. But John’s point was: it has to be more than a set of stories. He’d say, “You’ve got to be careful that this isn’t just something that’s fun to look at, something about this great music teacher.”

Books and videos on storytelling 
*** In Good Company : How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work
by Don Cohen, Laurence Prusak (February 2001) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Social Life of Information, by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid
(February 2000) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Springboard : How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations
by Stephen Denning (October 2000) Butterworth-Heinemann 
*** The Art of Possibility, a video with Ben and Ros Zander : Groh Publications (February 2001)
Copyright © 2001 Katalina Groh
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