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Group Practices: Story
Collective Story
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Another kind of storytelling that is associated with collective resonance is the development or retelling of a collective story, a story about the group or organization’s identity. In businesses with a charismatic founder, from HP to JP Morgan, a shared story or stories connected with the founder usually comes to be more firmly implanted in people’s memories than a mission statement or list of values. Invoking the collective story can shift a group into alignment and resonance that wasn’t present a moment before.

Often individual stories blend to become a significant part of the collective story. In the Group Magic study, one of the founders of the profession of organizational development admitted that the stories of the individuals who were prominent in the early establishment of the field had blended for her over time, so that individual contributions became less distinct than the shared story. See Story. Individual identity becomes shared identity, as it might also for a family, a senior class, a research team or a rock band.

Practices that enhance the development and benefits of collective story include:

(1) Writing the story. Writing the story can solidify its meaning, and provides a way for newcomers to the group to share in it. A company might have its stories on its website, as part of the packet of materials given new employees, and as an ongoing process through newsletters and annual reports. A family might create a scrapbook so that each generation can absorb and add to the story.

(2) Ritual retelling of the story. This is a key practice in many religious traditions, but one that can be easily adapted to other settings and groups. When a group adds members, part of their welcome could include telling of the collective story or stories. Stories can be retold on significant anniversary dates, or as part of the celebration of the accomplishment of a big objective.

SOURCE: Renee Levi, Group Magic interviews. See Renee's Profile

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