Bring out powerful stories with jumpstart storytelling

Shared stories lift people’s enthusiasm, motivation and capability for their shared purpose.¬†Jumpstart storytelling is a simple but effective way to bring out the most powerful stories in a group. I have used jumpstart storytelling in groups focused on improving the public service, exploring Internet issues and to review learnings from other sessions. I will explain jumpstart storytelling so that you can use it.

It’s all in the warmup

As within any group process, to begin I explain the purpose and let the group know that they are going to be sharing stories.

The purpose might be to warm up to a further activity, to review one that has taken place, or to explore a common theme. Whatever the purpose I choose a title for the stories. The title might be”what motivates me to be here”, “what grabbed me most and why”, or “a great example of [our shared theme] in action”.

Group members share stories in rounds

The process requires four steps.

  1. In groups of about five people, each person shares a 90s story. After hearing all the stories, they note the person who told the story that grabbed them the most.
  2. In a second group, with as many people as possible who were not in the first group, repeat step one.
  3. Everyone chooses the person whose story grabbed them the most.
  4. The five people with the most chosen stories share their stories with the whole group.

As people retell their stories, they refine them so that the final telling has the most impact. You can add a third round of storytelling if you have time.

For the choosing process, I ask people to put their hand on the shoulder of the person whose story they are choosing. You could also do this by having people give a token of some kind to the person they choose.

Thanks, Seth Kahan

I have deliberately kept this article brief because creator of jumpstart storytelling Seth Kahan explains it in full in Culture: The Power of Storytelling to JumpStart Collaboration. You may also enjoy this transcript of a jumpstart storytelling session, and this run sheet for facilitating jumpstart storytelling.