Jon Hansen Q&A

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I’m delighted to present the fourth installment in this series of interviews with some of the gurus of both performance and applied storytelling. This interview is with “Cousin” Jon Hansen (actually no relation as far as I know). I “met” Jon through this blog. He uses storytelling in the procurement sector. Read more about him in the links below his photo.

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Learn more about Jon in his LinkedIn Profile and his blog, Procurement Insights.

Q&A with Jon Hansen:

Q: What future trends or directions do you foresee for story/storytelling/narrative? What’s next for the discipline? What future aspirations do you personally have for your own story work? What would you like to do in the story world that you haven’t yet done?

A: As the world becomes more complex and disparate through globalization and social networking (in the latter, a great deal of my ongoing research and development resources have involved the evolution of the Web 4.0 platform), the importance of effective storytelling will play a critical role in establishing points of commonality that will lead to a greater mutual or “collective” understanding.

This is due in large part to an effective storyteller’s ability to provide a real-world point of reference that is universally recognized for its practical application. And it does not matter whether or not the story is presented within the illustrated or written framework of an Aesop’s fable, or a recounting of an actual event that the storyteller has himself (or herself) experienced, or witnessed first hand. The essential element is that it translates the complex into the everyday thereby widening the funnel of impact.

In the end, effective storytelling is both the filter and translator through which a greater understanding of the complexities that define our world today can reach out to the broadest number of people. It is therefore the lynchpin of effective communication.

Q: If you could share just 1 piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/narrative with readers, what would it be?

A: The illustrative nature of storytelling must be both entertaining and insightful.

Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?

I do not believe that it is so much growing, but is rather in the early stages of a renaissance based on the need for people to connect at multiple levels of understanding.

Social networks certainly provide the “architecture” for communication on a global basis, however content and more specifically meaningful content has not yet caught up with the technology.

I often refer to Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death and in particular his reference to the fear Aldous Huxley expressed in his book Brave New World. The fear of course being that “truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

Given the unfathomable sea of information afforded us through the Internet, storytelling is an invaluable resource as it provides the means for delivering substance and meaning in a form that can be readily grasped by the masses.

It reminds those of us who are willing to admit our true age of a time when the radio with tubes crackling and the dusty light from the station selection window took us on a journey of unlimited potential.

For today’s younger set, it provides that valuable link spans generational experience, which is especially important since recent studies have found that it is not uncommon for 4 different generations of workers to be employed within the same organization.

No, I do not really think of storytelling’s appearance on our collective radar screens as being a product of growth, so much as it is a result of rediscovering our elemental roots of communicating.

Q: Most people would probably be surprised that procurement is an area to which storytelling can be applied. Can you discuss how you use storytelling in your work?

As you will probably recall from our previous e-mail exchanges, I have used storytelling as a means of illustrating critical points associated with the evolution of supply-chain practice.

In some instances these can involve the recounting of an actual event (a Dragnet type of story that is true, with only the names being changed to protect the innocent). Here is a link to one such example.

The other relates to humorous anecdotes such as my response to a question dealing with the complexity associated with quantifying employee confidence in new supply chain programs. Here is the question, as well as my corresponding answer:

Is confidence difficult to quantify due to its complex, intangible and long-term oriented nature?

In his reminiscences about his college days, Bill Cosby talked about his girlfriend who happened to be a philosophy major. As a student of “athletics” nee sports, scholarship, he summed up the academic differences between the two courses when he referred to the philosophically motivated question “why is there air?”

His girlfriend’s class spent countless hours and days attempting to “quantify” the meaning of air. Bill’s athletically oriented class however answered the question within a matter of seconds with the simple observation that air exists to “fill basketballs, footballs, volleyballs etc.”

Oversimplified, most definitely. True, without question.

I went on to say that confidence is reflected in usage.

Q: You conduct a workshop on social networking and the purchasing professional. What story elements do you advocate that purchasing pros integrate into social networking?

A: As I mentioned in my answer to the question regarding growth in storytelling, merely having the infrastructure in place to effect real-time communication on a global basis isn’t enough.

One interesting statistic from a study that illustrates this point found that 80 percent of all information that appears as a result of a Google search is largely irrelevant. 80 percent is a significant amount of non-useful misinformation!

The strength of storytelling is that it requires an understanding that is based on actual life experience combined with a clear vision of the targeted audiences areas of actual interest. This can only be achieved through building relationships that are predicated on mutual interest rather than tied to the “number of connections” one can establish in the shortest period of time.

To be effective, social networking has to start to ask the question is establishing the link worthwhile versus the proclamation “I have 2 million names in my personal network.”

(NOTE: Web 4.0 is based upon the former by employing a strand commonality architecture that effectively links seemingly disparate interests into a collective beneficial outcome for all stakeholders. Ironically, and on a more basic level, storytelling does the same thing in terms of the potential for universal appeal that transcends diverse sectors and even cultures.)

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A Storied Career explores intersections/synthesis among various forms of
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Dr. Kathy Hansen

Kathy Hansen, PhD, is a leading proponent of deploying storytelling for career advancement. She is an author and instructor, in addition to being a career guru. More...

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The following are sections of A Storied Career where I maintain regularly updated running lists of various items of interest to followers of storytelling:

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Links below are to Q&A interviews with story practitioners.


The pages below relate to learning from my PhD program focusing on a specific storytelling seminar in 2005. These are not updated but still may be of interest:

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