Stories and analogiesIllustrations and analogies for motivation,inspiration, learning and trainingHere are some stories, analogies, research findings andother examples that provide wonderful illustrations forlearning, and inspiration for self-development.Read about the travellers and the monk, tickle me elmo,get in the wheelbarrow, the shoe box story, the scorpionand the frog, murphys plough, Pavlovs dogs, themonkeys and the stairs, and more.Look at the stories index for stories listed by subject.Or go straight to the stories.Analogies, stories, fables and case-studies are greatways to illustrate teaching, training and business lessons.Stories, examples, fables and research references addcolour and substance to presentations and reports, andreinforce learning of all types.Some of these stories are ironic and so can best be usedto illustrate pitfalls and vulnerabilities rather than bestpractice. If you know who wrote any of the unattributedstories below please let us know so that credit can begiven.Read and enjoy and send me your own favourite storiesand anecdotes.Some of these stories might be offensive to certainpeople in certain situations. If you are a strong advocateof political correctness or are easily offended pleasedont read this page, or the rest of this website, and forgoodness sake dont go near the acronyms page.
So, please dont use any of these stories in any situationsthat might cause offence to people.See also the quotes page, which contains many moremotivational, educational and amusing anecdotes forwriting, speaking, learning, teaching and training.Please note that The Person Who Had Feelings story,which was on this page for some while (with suggestedbut uncertain attribution to Barbara Dunlap) has beenremoved at the request of Barbara Dunlap Van Kirk, itsauthor, who has kindly contacted me to explain that sheis indeed the author, and that the work is protected andso is not to be reproduced. The version on this page wasalso somewhat different to Barbaras original. I hope tohelp Barbaras work be more widely and fully accessiblein the future.stories indexMost recent first:story title learning, lessons, messages, examples of usesthe blind man and communications, empathy,the advertising story connecting with people, advertising, marketing, language meaning, intervention, helping others, expertisethe shoes story positive thinking vs negative thinking, opportunities vs problems, attitude, mindsetthe pub story racial discrimination, lateral thinking, language meaningthe inflatables story context and meaning, discipline and
admonishment, self-respectthe mechanic and perceptions, differences, the devilthe surgeon story is in the detailthe zodiac signs example of story mnemonicmnemonic (memory aid)the two bulls story tactics, strategic thinking, planning, impulse, enthusiasm, wisdom, maturitythe thief and the planning, resources, projectpaintings story managementthe gardeners positive thinking, attitude, seeingbadge story the good side, successful businessthe rich man and the possessions, enjoyment,jewels story materialism, owning thingsthe atheist and the loyalty, payback and reward, takingbear story sides, changing sidesthe fairy story strategic alliances, ageism, sexism, tactical awareness, the sisterhood, loyalty, motives, assumptions, choices, karma, be careful what you wish forcircus story developing young people, coaching, advising, talent development, career choicesstranded car creativity, thinking outside of thedilemma story box, decision-making, ethicsthe school story attendance, sickness, overcoming fears, responsibilitythe soldiers and the leadershiptrench story
the john wayne story communications, confusion, understanding, instructionsthe blind men and dependency, risk, stretching,the road story motivation, achievement, lifting personal limitsthe doctor and the ethical decision-making, challengethief story and change choicesthe preacher and the duty, regardless of demand andfarmer story reward - adapt provision according to needsthe old lady and the tactical advantage, underestimatinghearing-aid story peoplemobile phone story assumptions, approvals, authority, control, security, identitythe trench-digger initiative, self-development, self-story discipline, making things happen, career advancement, getting experience before you get the job, getting a job requiring experience when you have none - also making assumptions and imagining or suspecting the worstthe double-positive make your point and then knowstory when to stop, language, communications, lateral thinking, quick-thinkingthe bath and bucket lateral thinking, makingstory assumptions, dangers of judging peoplethe stamp story customer services, communications, product design,
customer inertiathe shot at dawn ethics and culture, leadershipstory integrity and styles, decision- making, policy-makingdirect mail campaign human nature, integrity, delegationclanger story and training, and advertising is a funny business...the god and eve gender and sexual discrimination,story equality, battle of the sexes debates, after-dinner speechesthe wrong guy interviews, preparation, thinking oninterview story your feet, communications, media nonsense, persuasion (this is the famous BBC Guy Goma interview story and video clip)the very old lady positive attitude, self-image,story ageism, age and beauty, perspective, wisdomthe train travellers relationships, assumptions,story marriage, weddings speeches, best man speeches, sex, sexismthe william pitt story working creatively to reach agreement, managing situations and environments, facilitation of agreements, negotiationthe biscuit factory making assumptions, other peoplesstory perspectives, individual needs and motivationsthe eggs story time management, creative thinking and problem-solving, marriage, weddings speeches, best man
speeches, sex, sexismthe translator story communications, assumptions, creativity, deceit, language, relationships, karma, cheats dont prosperthe buddha and the conflict, responding to otherabuse story peoples negative behaviour, angry customers, disruptive kids, bad- tempered bossesthe gandhi shoe selflessness, compassion,story generosity, logic, objectivitythe greta garbo negotiation tactics, negotiatingnegotiation story position, independence and the power of choicethe jesse james tactics, strategy, planning, morality,story good and bad in us all, yin and yangthe gorilla story negotiating, understanding communications, agreeing clear objectives and responsibilitiesthe priest and the time management, being late,politician story public speakinglipstick kisses on the creative thinking, creative problem-mirror story solving, creative management techniques, avoiding confrontationmeasuring by analysis, measurement, statisticsaverages storythe blind golfers an ironic example of lack ofstory empathy, and different peoples perspectives
the sales and for teams, motivation, team-marketing rugby building, departmental cooperation,analogy story training, public speakingthe lock and key kindness and generosity, goodstory pebble ripples, memorable customer service experiencesthe stranger and the making assumptions, think beforegingernuts story you act, different perspectivesthe england football foundational failure, strategicstory analysis, alignment and philosophy, viabilitythe new employees importance of induction training forstories new starters, initiative and lateral thinking, interpretation, delegation, rules, checking and monitoringthe bedtime story communications, communications methods, relationships, marriage, weddings speeches, best man speeches, sex, sexismthe sergeant majors management styles examples,rude parrot story autoctratic management, submissive behaviour, threats, meeting difficult behaviour head-onthe farmer and the helping others, inspiration, gratitudeboy story and appreciation, good comes from doing good, the power of legenthe brewery story to challenge belief systems and assumptions, and the need for questioning pointless routine or policythe rowing identifying and managing
competition story performance improvement, establishing cause and accountability, theory x vs theory y, daft executive judgementsthe performance theory x shortcomings, mis-evaluation story managementthe no exit story different perspectives, viewpoints, how different perspectives cause one thing to appear as two different thingsthe old couple story positive/negative outlook, blame, attitudetwo brothers and the initiative, responsibility, thinkinggeese story outside the box, anticipating, strategic anticipation, adding value to service, value and rewardthe piano story mentoring, coaching, understanding the other persons development needsthe angry customer funny customer service example,story keeping calm, keeping control, managing conflict, angry customersthe clap and cheer positive attitude, taking pride instory whatever you dothe bank story a lesson in customer service, how bad policy encourages poor servicethe fish baking story to challenge belief systems and assumptions, and illustrate pointless routine and the need for questioning
the donkey story positive attitudes, turning problems into opportunitiesthe shepherd story IT consultants, business consultancy, knowing your factsthe speed camera creative thinking, teamwork,story understanding and using modern technology - do not try this at home..the three engineers different approaches to problem-story solving, modern ITthe sweet old couple dangers of making assumptions,story understand before you intervenethe men and women the other persons perspective,differences story gender empathy, for weddings, best-man speeches, johari window, empathy, NLP, etcthe aunt karen story using lessons, morals, analogies, examples, interpretation, relatives, families, drinkingthe tickle me elmo induction training, communications,story giving instructions, delegation, confusionthe get in the belief, trust, faith, commitment,wheelbarrow story walking the walkthe charles plumb supporting others, supporting roles,parachutes story leadership, acknowledging others, saying thank youthe chickens story communications, confusing instructions, testing, research and development
the chihuahua and creative thinking, quick thinking,the leopard story escaping, averting disaster, bluff and boldnessthe cannibals story management, managers, secretaries, initiative, habits, conforming, rules and rule-breakingthe dog and the be content with what you have,bone story greed and envy seldom pay (more Aesops fables)the "always done it time management, challengingthat way.." story habits, assumptions, procedures, belief systemsthe dam story how to write a good letter, making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, and how to defend wrong accusations with humourthe blind men and perception, truth, perspective,the elephant empathy, communications and understandingthe owl and the executive policy-making, theoryfield-mouse story versus practicethe rat and the lion do good, what goes around comesstory around, karmathe two mules story show off expensive things at your peril, the more you have the more you have to losethe travellers and positive attitude, life outlook,the monk story positive philosophy, finding what we seek, self-fulfilling propheciesthe human new starters induction, ironic
resources story reference to human resources management, keeping promises, employment standards, changing jobsthe shoe box story delusion, men and women, marriage, relationships, secrets, weddings and best-man speechesthe businessman ambition, work and fulfilment,and the fisherman purpose of life, wealth creation,story change for changes sakethe microsoft story computers, WYSInotWYG, ironic reference to computer software problemsthe "it will for that making a difference, compassion,one" story personal and social responsibilitythe negotiation story negotiating, men and women, funny responsesthe mcclelland david mcclellands achievementmotivation story motivation experiment, motivation references and examplesthe butterfly story coaching, teaching, enabling, facilitating, interventionsthe swimming pool reviews and asessments, assessingstory people, things are not always what they seemthe butcher story business ethics, chickens come home to roost, sins discovered, getting caught out, lying to customersthe pavlovs dogs behaviour, conditioning, fears and
story neuroses, embedded attitudes and responsesthe beans up the accentuate the positive,nose story visualization, auto-suggestion, negative suggestions and attitudesthe hawthorne effect elton mayos motivationstory experiments, motivationthe naval stand-off negotiation, do your research, knowstory your factsthe room service understanding, communicating,story interpretation, empathy, meaning, language and translationthe project story project management, six phases of a project, leadership and managementthe mswindows car the power of PR, clever publicity,story using humour for publicity, dont get mad get eventhe balloon story business, IT, humour, funny business storythe monkey story company policy, organizational development, group behaviour, group beliefs, inertia and assumptionsthe creativity story ten ways to murder creativity, leadership, growth and development, innovation and motivationthe scorpion and the responsibility, blame, reality,frog story acceptance, delusion, expectations,
personal responsibility, empathythe rocks in bucket time management, personalstory change, managing your activities and environment, project management, life-balancethe rocks in the alternative funny version, studentsbucket story II perspectivethe murphys plough positive thinking, negative thinking,story retaliating before being attacked, thinking the worst of people, tit- for-tat, eye-for-an-eyeStories for teaching, training,lessons and amusementStories add interest and enjoyment to learning, teachingand training - for teachers, trainers and students.Stories also increase impact and make ideas andconcepts far more memorable.Stories can be used to illustrate all sorts of themes andlessons, and most stories are extremely flexible.The themes suggested for the stories in this collectionare the obvious examples.Use your imagination - in most stories you can find manyother themes to suit your own purposes.the blind man and the advertisingstoryAn old blind man was sitting on a busy street corner in
the rush-hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign,next to an empty tin cup, he had written: Blind - Pleasehelp.No-one was giving him any money.A young advertising writer walked past and saw the blindman with his sign and empty cup, and also saw the manypeople passing by completely unmoved, let alonestopping to give money.The advertising writer took a thick marker-pen from herpocket, turned the cardboard sheet back-to-front, andre-wrote the sign, then went on her way.Immediately, people began putting money into the tincup.After a while, when the cup was overflowing, the blindman asked a stranger to tell him what the sign now said."It says," said the stranger, " Its a beautiful day. You cansee it. I cannot. "(My Dad told me this story when I was a teenager in the1970s. I saw it recently on a video on the web. This storyillustrates in a timeless way how important choice ofwords and language is when we want to truly connectwith and move other people. Thanks BC and SD)the shoes story (positive thinking,negative thinking, attitude,perspective, mindset)You will perhaps have heard this very old story illustratingthe difference between positive thinking and negativethinking:
Many years ago two salesmen were sent by a British shoemanufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back onmarket potential.The first salesman reported back, "There is no potentialhere - nobody wears shoes."The second salesman reported back, "There is massivepotential here - nobody wears shoes."This simple short story provides one of the best examplesof how a single situation may be viewed in two quitedifferent ways - negatively or positively.We could explain this also in terms of seeing a situationsproblems and disadvantages, instead of its opportunitiesand benefits.When telling this story its impact is increased by usingexactly the same form of words (e.g., "nobody wearsshoes") in each salesmans report. This emphasises thattwo quite different interpretations are made of a singlesituation.See also the glass half-full/empty quotes.the pub story (racial issues,discrimination, exclusion, inclusion,lateral thinking, different meanings inlanguage and communications)A Sikh, a Muslim, an Englishman, an Irishman, aScotsman, a Welshman, a Jew, a Buddhist and a Hindugo into a pub.The barman looks up and says, "Is this some kind of ajoke?"
(This short aside can be used to illustrate or drawattention to issues related to racialstereotyping/discrimination. Separately it offers anexample of lateral thinking, and also an example ofdouble meaning in language. The ethnicities may bechanged for your own situation or part of the world.)the inflatables story (context iseverything, discipline andadmonishment)In the land of inflatables (bear with me..), at the inflatableschool, what did the inflatable teacher say to the naughtyinflatable boy caught misbehaving with a pin?"You let me down, you let yourself down, and worst of allyou let the whole school down."the mechanic and the surgeon story(perceptions, the devil is in thedetail, the nature of big differences)A heart surgeon took his car to his local garage for aregular service, where he usually exchanged a littlefriendly banter with the owner, a skilled but not especiallywealthy mechanic."So tell me," says the mechanic, "Ive been wonderingabout what we both do for a living, and how much moreyou get paid than me..""Yes?.." says the surgeon."Well look at this," says the mechanic, as he worked on abig complicated engine, "I check how its running, open it
up, fix the valves, and put it all back together so it worksgood as new.. We basically do the same job dont we?And yet you are paid ten times what I am - how do youexplain that?"The surgeon thought for a moment, and smiling gently,replied,"Try it with the engine running.."zodiac star signs story (forremembering the signs of the zodiac,and memory aid example for teachingmnemonics methods)This story is a mnemonic (pronounced nemonic -meaning memory aid) for remembering the twelve Signsof the Zodiac, in order, starting in January.While this example is useful for pub quizzes, moreimportantly the method of creating a storymnemonic can be used to retain all sorts of difficult-to-remember pieces of information, for yourself, and taughtto others. Mnemonics stories need not make sense -they simply need to be memorable.In January, a goat (Capricorn), drinking from a stream(Aquarius) said, "Look, a fish (Pisces)."A ram (Aries), and a bull (Taurus), carrying the twins(Gemini) said "Theres also a crab (Cancer)."A lion (Leo) roared in agreement, which startled theyoung maiden (Virgo) so that she dropped and smashedher scales (Libra)."Thats no crab - its a scorpion (Scorpio)," said thearcher (Sagittarius).
Note that the Signs of the Zodiac are normally deemed tostart and end anything between the 18th and the 24th dayof each month, depending on interpretation. It is not byany means a precise science.the two bulls story (tactics, wisdom,planning, youthfulness vs maturity,impulse vs patience)Two bulls, one young and full of enthusiasm, and theother older and wiser, see a herd of cows.The young bull says, "Lets charge down this hillside andhave our wicked way with a couple of those cows."The old bull replies, "No, how about we stroll gently downthis hillside and have our wicked way with them all."You will perhaps have heard this story told with morefruity language. Feel free to adapt it for your ownsituation.(Thanks A Dobson for suggesting it. See also Softlysoftly, catchee monkey.)the thief and the paintings story(planning, preparation, resources,project management)A thief was caught after stealing some paintings from theLouvre in Paris, when his getaway van ran out of fuel.Given bail at his first hearing, a reporter asked him on thesteps of the courthouse how he forgot such a vital part ofhis plan."Simple," said the thief, "I had no Monet for Degas to
make the Van Gogh."(Ack CB)the gardeners badge story (positivethinking, attitude, seeing the goodside)A landscape gardener ran a business that had been in thefamily for two or three generations. The staff were happy,and customers loved to visit the store, or to have thestaff work on their gardens or make deliveries - anythingfrom bedding plants to ride-on mowers.For as long as anyone could remember, the currentowner and previous generations of owners wereextremely positive happy people.Most folk assumed it was because they ran asuccessful business.In fact it was the other way around...A tradition in the business was that the owner alwayswore a big lapel badge, saying Business Is Great!The business was indeed generally great, although it wentthrough tough times like any other. What never changedhowever was the owners attitude, and the badge sayingBusiness Is Great!Everyone who saw the badge for the first time invariablyasked, "Whats so great about business?" Sometimespeople would also comment that their own business wasmiserable, or even that they personally were miserable orstressed.Anyhow, the Business Is Great! badge always tended
to start a conversation, which typically involved the ownertalking about lots of positive aspects of business andwork, for example:w the pleasure of meeting and talking with different people every day p the reward that comes from helping staff take on new challenges and experiences c the fun and laughter in a relaxed and healthy work environment e the fascination in the work itself, and in the other peoples work and businesses p the great feeling when you finish a job and do it to the best of your capabilities t the new things you learn every day - even without looking to do so l and the thought that everyone in business is blessed - because there are many millions of people who would swap their own situation to have the same opportunities of doing a productive meaningful job, in a civilized well-fed country, where we have no real worries.And so the list went on. And no matter how miserable aperson was, theyd usually end up feeling a lot happierafter just a couple of minutes listening to all thisinfectious enthusiasm and positivity.It is impossible to quantify or measure attitude like this,but to one extent or another its probably a self-fulfillingprophecy, on which point, if asked about the badge in aquiet moment, the business owner would confide:"The badge came first. The great business followed."
the jewels story (enjoyment,fulfillment, possession, wealth,materialism, greed)Once there was a very rich and greedy man. He lovedand hoarded jewels.One day a visitor asked to see them.So the jewels were brought out, amid much expensivesecurity, and the two men gazed at the wonderful stones.As the visitor was leaving he said, "Thank you for sharingyour jewels with me.""I didnt give them to you," exclaimed the rich man, "Theybelong to me.""Yes of course," replied the visitor, "And while we enjoyedthe jewels just the same, the real difference between usis your trouble and expense of buying and protectingthem."(Thanks Jackie Carpenter, adapted from an original itemin New Internationalist 137.)the atheist and the bear story(loyalty, conviction, payback andreward, changing sides)A committed atheist (thats someone who steadfastlydoes not believe in a god of any sort) was on a trekkingholiday when he became lost in some dense woods.A large angry bear, with ten starving cubs back home andclaws like kitchen knives, suddenly emerged from the
undergrowth.The atheist screamed in terror, turned and ran. The bearwas quicker however, and after a long and desperatechase eventually cornered the atheist in a gully.The exhausted atheist sank to his knees, shaking.The bear, seeing that its prey was trapped, moved slowlytowards the petrified man, drooling. The bear wasdrooling too.The atheist lifted his head, with tears in his eyes, anduttered the words he thought he would never say in all hislife: "God help me..."With these simple three words, a blinding flash oflightning lit up the sky. There was a deafening crash ofthunder. The clouds parted. A brilliant light shone down.The forest fell silent. The bear froze still, in a trance. Theatheist stood gaping, transfixed.A voice came loud from above. Louder than twentyAC/DC concerts all happening at the same time. We cansafely assume this voice to have been the voice of a godof some sort."You atheists make me seriously mad," boomed the god,"You deny me all your life. You tell others to deny me too.You put your faith in all that bloody Darwinian airy-fairyscientific nonsense, and then what a surprise - you getlost because you cant read your stupid map, and nowyoure about to get eaten by an angry bear all of asudden youre on your knees snivelling and begging formy help?......... You must be joking..."The atheist looked down, realising that he was notarguing from a position of strength.
"Okay, I take your point," said the atheist, thinking on hisfeet, while he still had them, "I can see its a bit late forme to convert, but what about the bear?... Maybe youcould convert the bear instead?""Hmmn... interesting idea..." said the god, thinking hard,"...Okay. It shall be done." At which the brilliant lightdimmed and vanished; the clouds closed; and the noisesof the forest resumed.The bear awoke and shook its head, a completelydifferent expression on its face. Calm, at peace.The bear closed its eyes, bowed its head, and said, "Forwhat we are about to receive, may the Lord make us trulythankful, Amen.." THE END _________________________________N.B. The grace prayer in the punchline is the versioncommonly taught in UK schools. Alternatives might workbetter depending on the audience, for example:"Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, let this food of ours beblessed. Amen.." (suggesting an Australian bear ofunspecific denomination)"Lasst uns beten! O Herr, segne uns und diese deinegaben, die wir von deiner Güte nun empfangen werden.Durch Christus, unseren Herrn! Amen.." (suggesting aGerman Catholic bear)You will perhaps devise your own endings. Perhaps yourown animals. Perhaps your own god.It has been suggested that this story could offend certainsensitivities.
I apologise therefore to bears everywhere.(Adapted from a story sent by S Hart, thank you.)A much shorter and simpler version of this story (thanksD Baudois) is as follows:the missionary man and the lion storyA missionary came upon a hungry lion in the middle ofthe African plain.The missionary knelt and prayed, "God, please give thislion a christian soul!"The lion stopped, knelt, and prayed also: "Lord above,may this meal be blessed.."the fairy story (strategic alliances,tactical awareness, ageism, sexism,being careful about what you wishfor and how you go about getting it)A couple were dining out together celebrating their 40thwedding anniversary.After the meal, the husband presented his wiferomantically with a beautiful very old gold antique locketon a chain.Amazingly when his wife opened the locket, a tiny fairyappeared.Addressing the astonished couple, the fairy said, "Yourforty years of devotion to each other has released mefrom this locket, and in return I can now grant you bothone wish each - anything you want.."
Without hesitating, the wife asked, "Please, can I travel tothe four corners of the world with my husband, as happyand in love as weve always been?"The fairy waved her wand with a flourish, and magicallythere on the table were two first-class tickets for around-the-world holiday.Staggered, the couple looked at each other, unable tobelieve their luck."Your turn," said the fairy and the wife to the husband.The husband thought for a few seconds, and then said,with a little guilt in his voice, "Forgive me, but to reallyenjoy that holiday of a lifetime - I yearn for a youngerwoman - so I wish that my wife could be thirty yearsyounger than me."Shocked, the fairy glanced at the wife, and with aknowing look in her eye, waved her wand.....and the husband became ninety-three.(Adapted from a suggestion from J Riley, thanks.)circus story (developing youngpeople, talent, career choice,parenting)This short story - its a joke really - can be used toillustrate attitudes to developing young people, careerdirection, and especially the advice and aspirations ofparents and coaches, which might be different to thedreams of the individual...In a circus, the Bearded Lady and the Worlds Strongest
Man fell in love, and decided to start a family.Soon the Bearded Lady fell pregnant.A few weeks before she was due to give birth, theBearded Lady and the circus ring-master were talking."Hows it going?" the ring-master asked, "Are you well?""Yes thanks - very excited," said the bearded lady, "Wehave so many plans for the baby - we want to besupportive parents.""Thats nice," said the ring-master, "Do you want a boyor a girl?""Oh, we really dont mind as long as its healthy," said theBearded Lady, "And it fits into the cannon.."(Thanks DC)stranded car dilemma story (creativethinking, ethics, decision-making)This story is adapted from a scenario which featured in awidely circulated email, in which (supposedly) jobapplicants were given loosely the following question toanswer, to indicate their personality and decision-makingmotives (supposedly). The job application context isextremely doubtful, but the lesson in creative thinking isinteresting, especially if people are not given too long todwell on it:You are driving alone in two-seater car on a desertedroad in blizzard conditions, when you see another carwhich has recently run off the road and into a tree. Thereare three people in the stranded car, none of whom isinjured:
an old friend, who once saved your life a your childhood sweetheart greatest lost love y an elderly ladyNo-one has a phone. The likelihood of any more passingtraffic is effectively zero. The conditions are toodangerous for people to walk anywhere. It is not possibleto tow the crashed car. The nearest town is an hoursdrive away.The question is: Given that your car is just a two-seater,in what order should the stranded people be taken to thenearest town?Answerthe school story (attendance,sickness, responsibility, parenting,and various other uses)My apologies if this story is well-known to you. Its an oldjoke, yet a useful illustration for various themes.A mother repeatedly called upstairs for her son to get up,get dressed and get ready for school. It was a familiarroutine, especially at exam time."I feel sick," said the voice from the bedroom."You are not sick. Get up and get ready," called themother, walking up the stairs and hovering outside thebedroom door."I hate school and Im not going," said the voice from thebedroom, "Im always getting things wrong, makingmistakes and getting told off. Nobody likes me, and Ivegot no friends. And we have too many tests and they arei
too confusing. Its all just pointless, and Im not going toschool ever again.""Im sorry, but you are going to school," said the motherthrough the door, continuing encouragingly, "Really,mistakes are how we learn and develop. And please trynot to take criticism so personally. And I cant believethat nobody likes you - you have lots of friends atschool. And yes, all those tests can be confusing, but weare all tested in many ways throughout our lives, so all ofthis experience at school is useful for life in general.Besides, you have to go, you are the headteacher."(Based on a suggestion from P Hallinger, thanks.)the soldiers and the trench story(leadership)The story goes that sometime, close to a battlefield over200 years ago, a man in civilian clothes rode past a smallgroup of exhausted battle-weary soldiers digging anobviously important defensive position. The sectionleader, making no effort to help, was shouting orders,threatening punishment if the work was not completedwithin the hour."Why are you are not helping?" asked the stranger onhorseback."I am in charge. The men do as I tell them," said thesection leader, adding, "Help them yourself if you feelstrongly about it."To the section leaders surprise the stranger dismountedand helped the men until the job was finished.
Before leaving the stranger congratulated the men fortheir work, and approached the puzzled section leader."You should notify top command next time your rankprevents you from supporting your men - and I willprovide a more permanent solution," said the stranger.Up close, the section leader now recognized GeneralWashington, and also the lesson hed just been taught.(This story is allegedly based on truth. Whatever, similarexamples are found in history, and arise in modern timestoo, so please forgive the mythical possibility of theabove attribution; the storys message is more importantthan its historical accuracy.)the john wayne story (instructions,communications, understanding,confused messages)It is said that when filming the biblical epic The GreatestStory Ever Told, the director George Stevens was tryingto encourage extra passion from John Wayne whendelivering the highly significant line, "Truly, this was theSon of God.""You are talking about Jesus - think about it," saidStevens, "Youve got to say it with awe."For the next take John Wayne duly summoned his mostintense feelings. He paused dramatically, and said:"Aw, truly this was the Son of God."the blind men and the road story(stretching, dependency, risk,achievement under pressure)
A blind man had been waiting a while at a busy road forsomeone to offer to guide him across, when he felt a tapon his shoulder."Excuse me," said the tapper, "Im blind - would youmind guiding me across the road?"The first blind man took the arm of the second blind man,and they both crossed the road.Apparently this is a true story. The first blind man was thejazz pianist George Shearing. He is quoted (in BartlettsAnecdotes) as saying after the event, "What could I do? Itook him across and it was the biggest thrill of my life."There are times when we think we cannot do somethingand so do not stretch or take a risk. Being forced tostretch and take a risk can often help us to reduce ourdependencies (on others, or our own personal safetymechanisms), and to discover new excitement andcapabilities. The poem Come to the Edge is anotherwonderful perspective on risk and stretching.the doctor and the thief story (ethicaldecision making - also adaptability,flexibility, accepting what cannot bechanged)A man goes to the doctor and says "Doctor, Ive becomea compulsive thief."The doctor prescribes him a course of tablets and says,"If youre not cured in a couple of weeks would you getme a widescreen television?"This is not a lesson of ideal behaviour, its a humorousillustration of options - whether to try to change
something, to accept it or to actively support it. Suchdecisions normally have two main reference points - thedifficulty of the change, and the ethical implications ofthe situation.The Serenity Prayer is a different and less cynical view ofchange and choices.the preacher and the farmer story(understanding the needs of yourpeople, caring for minorities andindividuals, looking deeper than themainstream)An old hill farming crofter trudges several miles throughfreezing snow to his local and very remote chapel forSunday service. No-one else is there, aside from theclergyman."Im not sure its worth proceeding with the service -might we do better to go back to our warm homes and ahot drink?.." asks the clergyman, inviting a mutuallyhelpful reaction from his audience of one."Well, Im just a simple farmer," says the old crofter, "Butwhen I go to feed my herd, and if only one beast turnsup, I sure dont leave it hungry."So the clergyman, feeling somewhat ashamed, delivershis service - all the bells and whistles, hymns andreadings, lasting a good couple of hours - finishingproudly with the fresh observation that no matter howsmall the need, our duty remains. And he thanks the oldfarmer for the lesson he has learned."Was that okay?" asks the clergyman, as the two set off
home."Well Im just a simple farmer," says the old crofter, "Butwhen I go to feed my herd, and if only one beast turnsup, I sure dont force it to eat what I brought for thewhole herd..."From which we see the extra lesson, that while our dutyremains regardless of the level of need, we have theadditional responsibility to ensure that we adapt ourdelivery (of whatever is our stock in trade) according tothe requirements of our audience.(Adapted from a suggestion from P Hallinger, and basedapparently on a story told by Roland Barth, whom Iassume to be the US educationalist.)the old lady and the hearing-aidstory (assumptions aboutweaknesses, underestimating people,tactical advantage)An old lady had a hearing-aid fitted, hidden underneathher hair.A week later she returned to the doctor for her check-up."Its wonderful - I can hear everything now," she reportedvery happily to the doctor."And is your family pleased too?" asked the doctor."Oh I havent told them yet," said the old lady, "And Ivechanged my will twice already.."(Thanks BC. Based on a letter published in thenewspaper several years ago, written by the doctor. I
suspect variations of this story have been told manytimes elsewhere too.)the mobile phone story(assumptions, authority, control, therisks of modern communications andtechnology, privacy, security,identity theft, etc)Several men were in a golf club locker room.A mobile phone rings."Yes I can talk," says the man answering the call, "Youreshopping are you? Thats nice."The listening men smile to each other."You want to order those new carpets? Okay.. And theyllinclude the curtains for an extra five thousand?.. Sure,why not?"More smiles among the listeners."You want to book that week on Necker Island?.. Theyreholding the price at twenty-two thousand?.. Sounds abargain.. You want a fortnight?.. If thats what you wanthoney, okay by me."Smiles turn to expressions of mild envy."And you want to give the builder the go-ahead for thenew conservatory? Seventy-five thousand if we say yestoday? Sounds fair.. sure, thats fine."The listeners exchange glances of amazement."Okay sugar, see you later.. Yes, love you too," says theman, ending the call.
He looks at the other men and says, "Whose phone isthis anyhow?.."the trench-digger story (initiative,self-development, making thingshappen, career advancement, how toget a job requiring experience whenyou have none)This is adapted from (apparently) a true story.An elderly couple retired to the countryside - to a smallisolated cottage overlooking some rugged and rockyheathland.One early morning the woman saw from her window ayoung man dressed in working clothes walking on theheath, about a hundred yards away. He was carrying aspade and a small case, and he disappeared from viewbehind a copse of trees.The woman thought no more about it but around thesame time the next day she saw the man again, carryinghis spade and a small case, and again he disappearedbehind the copse.The woman mentioned this to her husband, who said hewas probably a farmer or gamekeeper setting traps, orperforming some other country practice that would beperfectly normal, and so not to worry.However after several more sightings of the young manwith the spade over the next two weeks the womanpersuaded her husband to take a stroll - early, before theman tended to arrive - to the copse of trees toinvestigate what he was doing.
There they found a surprisingly long and deep trench,rough and uneven at one end, becoming much neaterand tidier towards the other end."How strange," the old lady said, "Why dig a trench here- and in such difficult rocky ground?" and her husbandagreed.Just then the young man appeared - earlier than hisusual time."Youre early," said the old woman, making light of theirobvious curiosity, "We wondered what you were doing -and we also wondered what was in the case.""Im digging a trench," said the man, who continued,realising a bigger explanation was appropriate, "Imactually learning how to dig a good trench, because thejob Im being interviewed for later today says thatexperience is essential - so Im getting the experience.And the case - its got my lunch in it."He got the job.(Adapted from a suggestion - thanks R Columbo)double-positive story (make yourpoint and then know when to stop,language, communications, lateralthinking, quick-thinking)On hearing one of his students use the expression, "Idont know nothing about it..." a teacher took theopportunity to explain about double negatives and correctgrammar to the class.The teacher explained, "In the English language a doublenegative makes the statement positive, so your assertion
that you dont know nothing about it is actually anadmission that you do know something about it."Encouraged by the interest in this revelation amongcertain class members, the teacher went on todemonstrate more of his knowledge of world languages:"Of course not all languages operate according to thesame grammatical rules, for example, in Russian, adouble negative remains negative, although perhapssurprisingly, there is not a single language anywhere inthe world in which a double positive makes a negative.."At which a voice from the back of the classroom calledout ironically "Yeah, right.."(This is adapted from a story sent to me by M Morris.Apparently the original story was based on a true incidentat a Modern Language Association meeting in New Yorkin the mid-1970s, reported in the NY Times. The quick-witted response in the original story, actually "Yeah,yeah..", seemingly came from from Sidney Morganbesser,a professor of philosophy who was noted for his speedyretorts. Thanks M Morris, Apr 2007.)the bath and the bucket story (lateralthinking, making assumptions,dangers of judging people)Given the title (on the subject of buckets..) and its quicksimple message, this story is a good partner analogy tothe rocks in a bucket time management story.The story illustrates lateral thinking, narrow-mindedness,the risks of making assumptions, and judging people andsituations:
A party of suppliers was being given a tour of a mentalhospital.One of the visitors had made some very insulting remarksabout the patients.After the tour the visitors were introduced to variousmembers of staff in the canteen.The rude visitor chatted to one of the security staff, Bill, akindly and wise ex-policeman."Are they all raving loonies in here then?" said the rudeman."Only the ones who fail the test," said Bill."Whats the test?" said the man."Well, we show them a bath full of water, a bucket, a jugand an egg-cup, and we ask them whats the quickestway to empty the bath," said Bill."Oh I see, simple - the normal ones know its the bucket,right?""No actually," said Bill, "The normal ones say pull out theplug. Should I check when theres a bed free for you?"the stamp story (customer services,communications, product design,customer inertia)The staff at an old peoples home were puzzled when oneof the residents began gargling with TCP. They asked herwhy but all she would say was that something hadhappened at the post-office. This is what actuallyoccurred.The old lady, who rarely ventured out, had visited the
post office to post a letter.She bought a stamp, and since there was a long queuebehind her she stepped aside. She put her change in herpurse, licked the stamp and put it on her letter. Despitepressing and thumping and licking it again, the stampfailed to stick."Excuse me, this stamp wont stick," said the old lady."You need to peel the paper off the back," explained theclerk.The old lady put on her spectacles, fiddled for a fewseconds to peel off the backing paper - and then lickedthe stamp again."It still wont stick," interrupted the old lady again."Its a self-stick stamp," said the assistant."Well this one isnt sticking at all - theres somethingwrong with it," demanded the old lady."Well it wont stick now because youve licked it.""Well Im totally confused now," said the old lady."Just give it here and Ill post it for you," said the cashier,and doing her best to explain continued, "These newstamps dont need licking. They are self-sticking. Theysave time. They are already sticky."The old lady continued to look blankly at the assistant."Look," said the well-meaning but desperate post-officeclerk, "Just imagine theyve already been licked..."Which sent the old lady scurrying out of the door andacross the road to the chemist.(Thanks Stephen Rafe for the original tale from which the
above was adapted. Stephen also provided anotherexample of confused customer service communications,in which the customer was convinced for a while that thecustomer service person was somehow carrying on hiswork from inside prison, because the bad line was due tohim speaking from his cell-phone..)the shot at dawn campaign story(ethics and culture, leadershipintegrity and styles, decision-making, policy-making,)By December 1916 more than 17,000 British troops wereofficially diagnosed as suffering from nervous or mentaldisability (wed say shell-shock or post-traumatic stressdisorder these days), despite which the British militaryauthorities continued to charge and convict sufferers withcowardice and desertion, and to sentence to death byfiring squad many of those found guilty.On 16 August 2006 the British government announcedthat it would pardon 308 British soldiers who were shot byfiring squad for cowardice and desertion during theFirst World War of 1914-18. The decision was ratified byParliament on 7 November 2006, and represented aremarkable u-turn by this and previous governments whohad always firmly refuted any evidence and justificationfor pardoning the victims.This reversal followed and was largely due to decades ofpersistent lobbying and campaigning by organisationsand individuals, many being families and descendents ofthe victims. It is not easy to imagine their suffering,especially of the widows and parents long since gone, forwhom this decision came a lifetime too late.
The story emphasises two things: first, that people inauthority have a responsibility to behave with integrity.Second, that where people in authority fail to act withintegrity, the persistence and determination of ordinarypeople will eventually force them to do so.Here is more background about the Shot At Dawncampaign, and the history of this particularly shamefulexample of British institutional behaviour.It provides lessons to us all about doing the right thing,and calling to account those who do not.See the related discussion ideas for developingawareness and understanding of the issues and how theyrelate to us all.N.B. Some people will not agree with thisinterpretation. This makes it such an interestingsubject for debate, especially in transferring theissues and principles to modern challenges inorganisations, and the world beyond.direct mail campaign clanger story(human nature, integrity, delegationand training, and advertising is afunny business...)This is a true story. Some years ago a client engaged aconsultant to help with a small postal mailing to thepurchasing departments of blue chip corporations. Theconsultant sourced the list (which was provided onMSExcel) and drafted the letter. Thereafter the client waskeen to take control of the project, ie., to run the mail-merge and the fulfilment (basically printing, envelope-stuffing and mailing).
The consultant discovered some weeks later that a juniormember of the clients marketing department had sortedthe list (changed the order of the listed organisations inthe spreadsheet), but had sorted the company namecolumn only, instead of all columns, with the result thatevery letter (about 500) was addressed and sent to a bluechip corporation at another entirely different corporationsaddress.Interestingly the mailing produced a particularly highresponse, which when investigated seemed to stem fromthe fact that an unusually high percentage of letters wereopened and read, due apparently to the irresistibletemptation of reading another corporations mail...the god and eve story (gender andsexual discrimination, equality, battleof the sexes debates, after-dinnerspeaking, etc)"God, Ive been thinking.." says Eve one day."Whats on your mind Eve?" says God."Well, I know that you created me and this beautifulgarden and all of these wonderful creatures, but latelyIve been feeling that maybe theres more to life.""Go on..." says God."Sometimes I get a bit bored - I fancy a bit of fun. And Iget a bit fed up with all the heaving lifting and carrying,and warding off the mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers,not to mention that bloody snake. This garden can bedangerous place.""I see," says God, pausing for thought.
"Eve, I have a cunning plan," says God, "I shall createMan for you.""Man?" asks Eve, "What is Man?""Man..." says God, "Is a flawed creature. He will havemany weaknesses and disgusting habits. Man will lie,cheat and behave like an idiot - in fact mostly hell be acomplete pain in the backside. But on the plus side hellbe big and strong, and will be able to protect you, andhunt and kill things, which might be handy sometimes. Hewill tend to lose control of mind and body when aroused,but with a bit training can reach an acceptable standardin the bedroom department, if you know what I mean.""Hmm," says Eve, "Seems like this Man idea might beworth a try, but tell me God, is there anything else I needto know?""Just this," says God, "Man comes with one condition...In keeping with his arrogant, deluded, self-importantcharacter, Man will naturally believe that he was madefirst, and frankly we all have better things to do thanargue, so you must keep all this a secret between us, ifthats okay with you. You know, woman to woman.."(unknown origin - if you can shed any light on the originplease contact me - thanks CB)the wrong guy interview story(interviews, preparation, thinking onyour feet, communications)This is a true story. It concerned Guy Goma, a lovelycuddly business graduate from the Congo, who on 8thMay 2006 attended the BBC building in West London foran interview for an IT job. At the same time, the BBC
News 24 TV channel was expecting a Guy Kewney (nowsadly deceased), editor of the website Newswireless.net,for a live 10.30am studio interview about the Apple courtcase judgement. (Apple Corps, owned by survivingBeatles McCartney and Starr, lost their case againstApple Computers, in which they sought to prevent theApple name being used in relation to iTunes musicdownloads.)Due to failed communications, entirely the BBCs fault(both Guys were blameless in this), the BBC News 24staff grabbed the wrong Guy (waiting in a differentreception to Guy Kewney), who, being an unassuming,foreign and extremely polite fellow, dutifully took hisplace in the studio, and after declining make-up (really),was introduced on live TV to viewers as Guy Kewney,editor of the technology website Newswireless, and thenasked three questions by the BBC News 24 businesspresenter Karen Bowerman about the Apple judgementsand its implications for internet music downloading.Meanwhile the real Guy Kewney sat and watched himselfon the monitor in the BBC reception. See the wrong Guyinterview. (At some stage in the future the link to the BBCinterview clip might cease working - I dont know howlong they keep these things. Let me know when and ifyou can no longer see the video clip and Ill try to sourceit elsewhere. As at Jun 2010 - thanks Joe - it seems thatthe clip is not so easy to play as it once was, althoughthe video is still available via the BBCs Launch in standalone player link for the wrong Guy item.Whats so utterly fascinating about this story and thesupporting video, is:Guy Goma initially expresses surprise about the interview
situation, but, largely due to his broken English and heavyFrench accent the interviewer interprets and leads MrGomas response to mean that he is surprised about thecourt judgement. If you listen carefully Guy Goma doesactually mention his interview in his first answer. See thetranscript below. However the pressure of the situation istoo great and he has little option other than to play outthe role that the fates have created for him. He actuallydoes quite well, given that he knows little about thesubject. Subsequent media reports that Guy Goma was ataxi driver are false - hes a business graduate. He laterattended his IT job interview but regrettably wasunsuccessful. You can read what Guy Kewney thought ofit all on his own blog at www.newswireless.net (there areseveral entries - read them all to see the full picture).As mentioned, sadly Guy Kewney has since died, on 8Apr 2010. His blog as at Sep 2010 still stands. Please letme know if it ceases to be available. On hearing of GuyKewneys passing (thanks D Guy - another differentGuy..) I considered whether to remove or retain this itemand obviously I decided to retain it. I never met GuyKewney. From what I understand he seems to have beena lovely man. The opportunity to say this is part of mydecision.the wrong guy interview transcriptKaren Bowerman: ...Well, Guy Kewney is editor of thetechnology website Newswireless.[Camera switches to Guy Gomas face, portraying amixture of shock, disbelief and impending disaster.]KB: Hello, good morning to you.Guy Goma: Good morning.KB: Were you surprised by this verdict today?
GG: I am very surprised to see... this verdict, to come onme because I was not expecting that. When I came theytold me something else and I am coming. Got aninterview... [another word, impossible to discern] .... abig surprise anyway.KB: A big surprise, yes, yes. [seeming a little anxious]GG: Exactly. [growing in confidence]KB: With regard to the costs involved do you think nowmore people will be downloading online?GG: Actually, if you go everywhere you are gonna see alot of people downloading to internet and the websiteeverything they want. But I think, is much better fordevelopment and to empower people what they want andto get on the easy way and so faster if they are lookingfor.KB: This does really seem the way the music industrysprogressing now, that people want to go onto the websiteand download music.GG: Exactly. You can go everywhere on the cyber cafeand you can take [maybe check?], you can go easy. Itsgoing to be very easy way for everyone to get somethingto the internet.KB: Thank you [actually sounds more like Thank Kewney- as if Ms Bowerman was a little distracted, no wonder].Thanks very much indeed.Lessons from this:L Good clear communications are essential when managing any sort of interview. m Pressure situations can easily lead people (especially interviewees) to give false impressions, which are no help to anyone. h The behaviours demonstrated in this incident illustrate
the power of suggestion, and NLP, albeit used mostly inadvertently in this case; the point is that all communications involve a hell of a lot more than just words.. w The power of the media to interpret just about anything for their own journalistic purposes is bloody frightening.the very old lady story (positiveattitude, self-image, ageism)A very old lady looked in the mirror one morning. She hadthree remaining hairs on her head, and being a positivesoul, she said, "I think Ill braid my hair today." So shebraided her three hairs, and she had a great day.Some days later, looking in the mirror one morning,preparing for her day, she saw that she had only twohairs remaining. "Hmm, two hairs... I fancy a centreparting today." She duly parted her two hairs, and asever, she had a great day.A week or so later, she saw that she had just one hair lefton her head. "One hair huh...," she mused, "I know, apony-tail will be perfect." And again she had a great day.The next morning she looked in the mirror. She wascompletely bald."Finally bald huh," she said to herself, "How wonderful! Iwont have to waste time doing my hair any more.."(Ack CB)the train travellers story(relationships, assumptions, etc)
A wealthy businessman who is used to getting his ownway finds himself sharing a sleeper compartment with abeautiful young woman as they travel to Brussells on thetrain. It is winter and the heating is not working so thecompartment is cold.The two settle down to sleep."Two strangers, on a train..." says the businessman."Yes," says the woman."A man and a woman - away from home - probablynever meet again.." Says the businessman."Yes," says the woman."Its cold, isnt it?" says the businessman."Yes," says the woman."Could you pass me another blanket?" says thebusinessman, "... Or maybe we could pretend to be manand wife for tonight?..""Yes, that would be good," says the woman, "Get yourown bloody blanket."the william pitt story (workingcreatively to reach agreement,managing situations andenvironments, facilitation ofagreements)There is the story of William Pitt, 1759-1806, Britishstatesman and Prime Minister from 1783-1801, who oncesought to expedite a crucial agreement in Parliament forthe movement of the British fleet to defend against theFrench. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord
Newcastle, had certain objections, but when Pitt calledon the Chancellor endeavouring to resolve thedifferences, he found the Chancellor distinctly unhappy inbed suffering with gout. The bedroom was freezing, andwhen Pitt remarked on this, Lord Newcastle replied thatthe cold weather would hinder the fleet movement, butmore particularly that the combination of the coldconditions and the gout would prevent any furtherdiscussion of the issue at that time, which Pitt quicklyjudged to be at the root of the problem. Begging theChancellors pardon, Pitt calmly removed his boots,climbed into bed and drew up the covers (apparentlythere was another bed in the room..), whereupon the twowere able to discuss the matter and soon agreed a unitedway forward.the biscuit factory story (makingassumptions, other peoplesperspectives, individual needs andmotivations)This is a true story. Some years ago the followingexchange was broadcast on an Open Universitysociology TV programme.An interviewer was talking to a female production-lineworker in a biscuit factory. The dialogue went like this:Interviewer: How long have you worked here?Production Lady: Since I left school (probably about 15years).Interviewer: What do you do?Production Lady: I take packets of biscuits off the
conveyor belt and put them into cardboard boxes.Interviewer: Have you always done the same job?Production Lady: Yes.Interviewer: Do you enjoy it?Production Lady: Oooh Yes, its great, everyone is sonice and friendly, we have a good laugh.Interviewer (with a hint of disbelief): Really? Dont youfind it a bit boring?Production Lady: Oh no, sometimes they change thebiscuits...My thanks to Shirley Moon for this lovely story, who alsopoints out the following lessons within it:p Do not impose your own needs and ambitions on to other people who may not share them. o Dont assume that things that motivate you will motivate someone else. m Recognise that sources of happiness may vary widely between people.See also the sections on personality styles, multipleintelligence and learning styles, and motivation, which allrelate to this story.a short story about eggs (timemanagement, creative thinking andproblem-solving)A young woman was in her kitchen.A pan of water was simmering on the stove.
She was making boiled eggs for breakfast.He walked in.Their eyes met."Make love to me here, now," she said.They made love on the kitchen table."Couldnt resist me, huh?" he said."The egg timer is broken," she replied.Of course this story is a bit far-fetched given that an eggtimer lasts for three whole minutes..(Ack Detoxman)the translator story (communications,assumptions, creativity, deceit,language, relationships, just deserts)The story goes that a prominent, married, philandering,wealthy politician took advantage of a young femaleItalian translator during an overseas visit. Shortly after hisreturn home he received a phone call at his office fromthe woman informing him that she was pregnant and thathe was definitely the father.Seemingly experienced at dealing with such situations,the politician instructed the young woman, "I will arrangefor you and the child to be provided for. Do not worryabout money. I will pay ten times the typical Italiansettlement, but this must be kept secret.""I see," said the young woman, a little taken aback, butsince she knew the man and his reputation she was not
unduly surprised, and was also entirely happy never tosee or speak to him again.He went on, "Dont ever call me again. Send me apostcard with some sort of coded message confirmingdate of birth, that the child is healthy and whether a boyor girl. Use your imagination - you are a translator afterall.""As you wish," said the young woman, and ended thecall.A little under nine months later the politicians wife (whowas also his PA) was opening his mail. When she cameto a particular postcard the politician noticed andsuddenly became attentive."Heres a postcard..." said his wife."Oh yes," said the politician, "What does it say?""Just a silly joke I think," said his wife, continuing, as shewatched the colour drain from her husbands face, "Itsays: March 12th - Just had three big beautiful bowls ofspaghetti - all with meatballs.. "(Ack SF)the helpful old lady story (check thefacts, false assumptions, etc)One afternoon, an old lady, laden with shopping, noticedtwo small boys on the front step of a house. With theirbags and uniforms they were obviously going home afterschool. They were on tip-toe trying to reach the door-bell with a stick."Poor little lads, they cant get in," she thought, "Parentsthese days just dont seem to care."
So she marched up the path, reached over the boys andgave the bell a long firm push.The surprised boys turned around and screamed "Quick,run!" and promptly disappeared over the garden wall.the buddha and the abuse story(responding to other peoplesnegative behaviour; angry customers,disruptive kids, bad-temperedbosses, etc)A tale is told about the Buddha, Gautama (563-483BC),the Indian prince and spiritual leader whose teachingsfounded Buddhism. This short story illustrates that everyone of us has the choice whether or not to take personaloffence from another persons behaviour.It is said that on an occasion when the Buddha wasteaching a group of people, he found himself on thereceiving end of a fierce outburst of abuse from abystander, who was for some reason very angry.The Buddha listened patiently while the stranger ventedhis rage, and then the Buddha said to the group and tothe stranger, "If someone gives a gift to another person,who then chooses to decline it, tell me, who would thenown the gift? The giver or the person who refuses toaccept the gift?""The giver," said the group after a little thought. "Any foolcan see that," added the angry stranger."Then it follows, does it not," said the Buddha, "Whenevera person tries to abuse us, or to unload their anger onus, we can each choose to decline or to accept the
abuse; whether to make it ours or not. By our personalresponse to the abuse from another, we can choose whoowns and keeps the bad feelings."(This is related to Transactional Analysis)the gandhi shoe story (selflesscompassion, generosity withoutstrings)Mohandas [Mahatma] Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948),the great Indian statesman and spiritual leader is notedfor his unusual humanity and selflessness, which thisstory epitomises. Gandhi was boarding a train one daywith a number of companions and followers, when hisshoe fell from his foot and disappeared in the gapbetween the train and platform. Unable to retrieve it, hetook off his other shoe and threw it down by the first.Responding to the puzzlement of his fellow travellers,Gandhi explained that a poor person who finds a singleshoe is no better off - whats really helpful is finding apair.Separately, Gandhi was once asked what he thought ofWestern Civilisation. Gandhi replied: "I think that it wouldbe a very good idea."The notion still applies.(More inspirational and amusing quotes.)greta garbo negotiation story(negotiation tactics, negotiatingposition, independence and thepower of choice)
Great Garbo (1905-90), the 1930s Swedish-born filmstar, demonstrated how to negotiate with a bullyingadversary, and particularly the tactic of walking away.After Garbo had become established as a major star, shedecided to negotiate a contract that suitably reflected herconsiderable box-office value to the producers.Accordingly she demanded a weekly fee of $5,000 -compared to the derisory $350 a week shed previouslybeen paid. When film mogul Louis Mayer heard Garbosdemand he offered her $2,500. Garbo replied simply, inher Swedish-American accent, "I think I go home.." Andoff she went.Garbo returned to her hotel and stayed there, notbudging, while Mayer stewed - for seven months - atwhich Mayer eventually caved in and gave Garbo whatshe asked for.(Interestingly Garbo never actually said, "I want to bealone". There phrase was in fact "I want to be left alone,"which her character Grusinskaya said in Garbos 1932film Grand Hotel. The resonance of the words withGarbos real life didnt just extend to her negotiatingstyle: she retired in 1941 with the world still at her feet,and lived the rest of her life an obsessive recluse in NewYork after becoming a US citizen in 1951.)the jesse james story (tactics,morality, good and bad in us all)The notorious American Wild West bank robber JesseJames (1847-82) was hunted and demonised by theauthorities, but was held in high regard by many ordinaryfolk. Heres an example of why:The story goes that Jesse James and his gang had taken
refuge for a few days in ramshackle farmhouse after oneof their raids. The old widow who lived there fed the men,and apologised for her modest offerings and the poorstate of the accommodation. While the gang laid low,they learned from the widow that she faced eviction fromher landlord and was expecting a visit from his debtcollector any day. Taking pity on the old lady, as they left,the gang gave her some of the spoils of their robbery tosettle her debt - several hundred dollars, which was asmall fortune in those days. The gang moved on, but onlyto a nearby copse, where for a couple more days theywatched and waited for the arrival - and departure - ofthe debt collector, whom they promptly held up androbbed.Of course robbing anyone is bad, but if youve got to robsomeone...the gorilla story (negotiating,understanding communications,agreeing clear objectives andresponsibilities)A zoo had among its animals a female gorilla, whosemood was becoming increasingly difficult. The vetconcluded that she was on heat and that a mate shouldbe found. The vet contacted some other nearby zoos tofind a partner for the broody female, but to no avail. Thefemale gorillas behaviour continued to worsen, but thevet noticed that she grew calmer, and strangelyresponsive, whenever a particularly well-built and none-too-handsome keeper entered the enclosure. Being anunprincipled and adventurous fellow, the vet put anoutrageous proposition to the keeper: For a fee of five
hundred pounds would the keeper consider spending alittle quality time with the gorilla, purely in the interestsof research of course?....The keeper, also an unprincipled and adventurous fellow,pondered the suggestion, and after a few minutes agreedto the offer, subject to three conditions. The vet,intrigued, listened to the keepers demands:"First," the keeper said, "No kissing.""Fine," said the vet."Second, no-one must ever know - if this gets out Ill killyou.""You have my word," said the vet, "And your finalcondition?""Its just," said the keeper a little awkwardly, "Can I have acouple of weeks to raise the five hundred quid?"(With acknowledgements to Shane and apologies to vetsand zoo-keepers everywhere.)the priest and the politician story(time management, being late, publicspeaking)After twenty-five years in the same parish, FatherOShaunessey was saying his farewells at his retirementdinner. An eminent member of the congregation - aleading politician - had been asked to make apresentation and a short speech, but was late arriving.So the priest took it upon himself to fill the time, andstood up to the microphone:"I remember the first confession I heard here twenty-five
years ago and it worried me as to what sort of place Idcome to... That first confession remains the worst Iveever heard. The chap confessed that hed stolen a TV setfrom a neighbour and lied to the police when questioned,successfully blaming it on a local scallywag. He said thathed stolen money from his parents and from hisemployer; that hed had affairs with several of his friendswives; that hed taken hard drugs, and had slept with hissister and given her VD. You can imagine what Ithought... However Im pleased to say that as the dayspassed I soon realised that this sad fellow was a frightfulexception and that this parish was indeed a wonderfulplace full of kind and decent people..."At this point the politician arrived and apologised forbeing late, and keen to take the stage, he immediatelystepped up to the microphone and pulled his speechfrom his pocket:"Ill always remember when Father OShaunessey firstcame to our parish," said the politician, "In fact, Im prettycertain that I was the first person in the parish that heheard in confession.."(Ack Stephen Hart)lipstick kisses on the mirror story(creative thinking, creative problem-solving, creative managementtechniques, avoiding confrontation)A school head was alerted by the caretaker to apersistent problem in the girls lavatories: some of the girlstudents were leaving lipstick kisses on the mirrors. Thecaretaker had left notices on the toilet walls asking for the
practice to cease, but to no avail; every evening thecaretaker would wipe away the kisses, and the next daylots more kisses would be planted on the mirror. It hadbecome a bit of a game. The head teacher usually took acreative approach to problem solving, and so the nextday she asked a few girl representatives from each classto meet with her in the lavatory."Thank you for coming," said the head, "You will seethere are several lipstick kisses in the mirrors in thiswashroom.."Some of the girls grinned at each other."As you will understand, modern lipstick is cleverlydesigned to stay on the lips, and so the lipstick is noteasy at all to clean from the mirrors. We have thereforehad to develop a special cleaning regime, and my hope isthat when you see the effort involved you will help spreadthe word that wed all be better off if those responsiblefor the kisses use tissue paper instead of the mirrors infuture.."At this point the caretaker stepped forward with a spongesqueegee, which he took into one of the toilet cubicles,dipped into the toilet bowl, and then used to clean one ofthe lipstick-covered mirrors.The caretaker smiled. The girls departed. And there wereno more lipstick kisses on the mirrors.(Thanks H)measuring by averages story(analysis, measurement, statistics,etc)
Three statisticians went hunting in the woods. Beforelong, one of them pointed to a plump pigeon in a tree,and the three of them stopped and took aim. The firstfired, missing the bird by a couple of inches to the left.Immediately afterwards the second fired, but also missed,a couple of inches to the right. The third put down hisgun exclaiming, "Great shooting lads, on average Ireckon we got it..."(ack K Hutchinson)the blind golfers story (an ironicexample of lack of empathy, anddifferent peoples perspectives)A clergyman, a doctor and a business consultant wereplaying golf together one day and were waiting for aparticularly slow group ahead. The business consultantexclaimed, "Whats with these people? Weve beenwaiting over half and hour! Its a complete disgrace." Thedoctor agreed, "Theyre hopeless, Ive never seen such arabble on a golf course." The clergyman spotted theapproaching greenkeeper and asked him what was goingon, "Whats happening with that group ahead of us?Theyre surely too slow and useless to be playing, arentthey?" The greenkeeper replied, "Oh, yes, thats a groupof blind fire-fighters. They lost their sight saving ourclubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let themplay for free anytime." The three golfers fell silent for amoment. The clergyman said, "Oh dear, thats so sad. Ishall say some special prayers for them tonight." Thedoctor added, rather meekly, "Thats a good thought. Illget in touch with an ophthalmic surgeon friend of mine tosee if theres anything that can be done for them." After
pondering the situation for a few seconds, the businessconsultant turned to the greenkeeper and asked, "Whycant they play at night?"(Other job-titles can be substituted instead of businessconsultant to suit the purpose of the story, for example,government advisor, venture capitalist, engineer, projectmanager, accountant, finance director, quality manager,etc)the sales and marketing rugbyanalogy story (for teams, motivation,team-building, departmentalcooperation, training, publicspeaking)I am assured this is a true story. A consultant was askedto give a talk at a sales conference. The CEO asks him tofocus on the importance of cooperation and teamworkbetween the sales and marketing teams, since neithergroup has a particularly high regard for the other, and thelack of cohesion and goodwill is hampering effectivenessand morale. The marketing staff constantly moan aboutthe sales people doing their own thing and failing tofollow central strategy; and the sales people say that themarketing people are all idle theorists who waste theirtime at exhibitions and agency lunches and have neverdone a decent days work in their lives.Being a lover of rugby, the consultant decides to use theanalogy of a rugby teams forwards and backs workingtogether to achieve the best team performance:"......So, just as in the game of rugby, the forwards, likethe marketing department, do the initial work to create
the platform and to make the opportunities, andthen pass the ball out to the backs, the salesdepartment, who then use their skills and energy toscore the tries. The forwards and the backs, just likemarketing and sales, are each good at what they do:and they work together so that the team wins..." saidthe consultant, finishing his talk.The audience seemed to respond positively, and theconference broke for lunch. At the bar the consultantasked one of the top sales-people what hed thought ofthe analogy - had it given him food for thought?"Yes, I see what you mean," said the salesman, "It doesmake sense. The sales people - the backs, yes? - thebacks need the marketing department - the forwards,yes? - to make the opportunities for us, so that we, thebacks, can go and score the tries - to win the business.We work together as a team - each playing our own part- working as a team."The consultant beamed and nodded enthusiastically, onlyto be utterly dashed when the salesman added as anafterthought, "I still think our forwards are a bunch ofwankers..."(with thanks to Martin Deighton)the lock and key story (kindness andgenerosity, good pebble ripples,memorable customer serviceexperiences)A British family were on holiday in a rented motor-homein the USA. Travelling through California they visited theMagic Mountain amusement park close by Los Angeles.
Mid-afternoon, halfway through what was turning out tobe a most enjoyable day at the park, Mum, Dad and thethree kids came upon a particularly steep plummetingride. In the queue, the ride attendants strongly warnedeveryone about the risks of losing hats, spectacles, coinsand keys, etc., and these warnings were echoed by largesigns around the ride. During the ride, Dad lost the keys.Due to the fact that the motor-home was a replacementvehicle resulting from a breakdown earlier in the holiday,there were no spare keys. And there were six keys on thelost bunch: ignition, front doors, side door, fuel tank,propane tank, and storage cupboards.The park attendants drove the family back to the motor-home, suggesting the least damaging ways to break intoit.Fortunately a window had been left slightly open,enabling the middle son to be put in and to open thedoors from the inside.Inside the motor-home Mum and Dad discussed what todo. They were stranded.Middle son (all of six years old) said hed got a key - saidhed found it - but no-one was listening properly."Perhaps it will fit, Ill get it." (The optimism of youngchildren of course knows no bounds.)Not thinking for one second that little lads key would fit,Dad tried it. Incredibly the key fitted the ignition - and thedrivers door. Middle son is a hero. It seems hed foundthe key in a cupboard when packing his clothes soonafter the motor-homes were swapped after the firstvehicle broke down.The next day back at the camp site, Dad called a local
locksmith to see what could be done."I might be able to make new keys from the locks, if youbring the vehicle to me," said the locksmith, so the familydrove to the locksmith, whose business was in a smallshopping centre in the California countryside.The locksmith looked at the motor-home, and said hedtry. "If you come back in an hour Ill know better what Ican do for you."The family went to the nearby shops and a coffee bar topass the time. Dad returned to the locksmith to see howthings were going. The locksmith says he thought hecould make new keys for all the locks, but it would be along job.In fact the job took the locksmith most of the day. Thefamily hung around the locksmiths, visited the shopsagain, and generally made a day of being at the littleshopping centre. While working on the locks and thekeys, the locksmith talked with the family about England,about America, about the rides at Las Vegas, aboutmotor-homes, about business, about locks, aboutfamilies and kids, about lots of things.Late on in the afternoon the locksmith said that hednearly done - "But you have time to go get something toeat if you want. When you come back Ill be done." Sothe family went to a burger bar for something to eat.An hour later the family returned to the locksmiths shop.It was 4pm and theyd been at the shopping centre since10.00 in the morning.When Dad entered the locksmiths shop the locksmithwas smiling. He put two new gleaming bunches of keyson the counter. "Here you go - a new set of keys for all
the locks, and a spare set too," said the locksmith, "And Itell you what Im going to do..."Dad offered his credit card, gratefully."You know, Ive had such a great time with you guystoday," says the locksmith, "You can have these for free."This is a true story. It happened over ten years ago. I stilltell people about it now, like Im telling you. The companyis Newhall Valencia Lock & Key, in the El CentroShopping Center, Canyon Country, California. This littlecompany gave me and my family an experience thattranscended customer service, and I was delighted whenI found their business card in my kitchen drawer the otherday, because it prompted me to share this story and toproperly express my thanks.Just a final note - Im not suggesting that great customerservice is about giving your products and services away.Obviously thats not a particularly sustainable businessmodel. What Im saying though, is that there are timeswhen youll see opportunity to do something really specialfor a customer, or for another human being, and whenyou do it, the ripples of your good pebble can stretcharound the world, and last for years and years. So, withinthe boundaries of whats possible and viable for you,drop in a good pebble whenever you can and make someripples of your own.the stranger and the gingernuts story(making assumptions, think beforeyou act, different perspectives)At the airport after a tiring business trip a ladys return
flight was delayed. She went to the airport shop, boughta book, a coffee and a small packet containing fivegingernut biscuits. The airport was crowded and shefound a seat in the lounge, next to a stranger. After a fewminutes reading she became absorbed in her book. Shetook a biscuit from the packet and began to drink hercoffee. To her great surprise, the stranger in the next seatcalmly took one of the biscuits and ate it. Stunned, shecouldnt bring herself to say anything, nor even to look atthe stranger. Nervously she continued reading. After afew minutes she slowly picked up and ate the thirdbiscuit. Incredibly, the stranger took the fourth gingernutand ate it, then to the womans amazement, he picked upthe packet and offered her the last biscuit. This being toomuch to tolerate, the lady angrily picked up herbelongings, gave the stranger an indignant scowl andmarched off to the boarding gate, where her flight wasnow ready. Flustered and enraged, she reached insideher bag for her boarding ticket, and found her unopenedpacket of gingernuts...(Adapted from a suggestion submitted by S Frost.Apparently the story appears in a variety of urban legendsdating from at least 30 years ago, and is also describedin Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, bookfour, 1984, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. Ack LBaldock.)the england football story (cause andeffect, foundations of failure,fundamental strategy, structure,planning and philosophy, strategicanalysis)
When a business fails or struggles in some other waypeople commonly look for recent tactical or incidentalcauses, but the roots of failure are usually far deeper infoundational strategies, structures and philosophies.The poor performance of the England football team at theFIFA 2010 World Cup offers an example of a ventureinflicted with fundamental problems, and therefore likelyto fail.Here are some indicators (as at FIFA World Cup 2010) offoundational weakness and vulnerability in the basicorganization and ethos of the England national footballeffort. Think of it like a business. Success is difficultwhen foundations are flaky and misaligned. With a littleimagination it is easy to relate these lessons/examples tothe business world.The English Premiership (Englands top domestic leagueand effectively the pool from which the national team isselected) is dominated by clubs which are:s Mostly owned, and the teams managed/coached, by people/companies from outside of the UK, who have little interest in the success of the England national team, and in many cases have very strong national football loyalties overseas. f Mostly staffed by players from outside of England (two-thirds are from overseas), which restricts the pool of available English national talent, and also the opportunities for English home-grown talent to develop and become experienced. d Clubs are very strongly profit-driven, and are so debt-ridden as to be effectively bankrupt. d As a consequence of these commercial pressures,
players are forced to play too many games in a season (generally far more than their international counterparts), without break, and so that when the World Cup happens it is during the one month in the year when players would normally be resting and recovering.The leadership of the Football Association, guardian ofEnglands national game, has for some years beenchaotic and disjointed, indicators being:c Recent resignations of Chief Executive and Chairman. R Regular scandals and infighting. R Lack of control over domestic game and clubs.Other foundations of failure indicators:O England has approximately 10% of the number of FIFA qualified coaches compared to European countries like Spain, Germany, Italy, and France (about 2,700 compared to about 20,000 or 30,000 in these other countries). t The coach of the national team is not English and cannot speak English properly. It is not ideal to have coach who cannot communicate effectively, and by virtue of his foreign nationality cannot possibly have English national pride in the truest sense. Would an Englishman ever coach the Italian or German national team? This is not xenophobia (dislike of foreigners) or discrimination, it is practicality and common sense. s The coach is paid £5 million (or £6m, depending on interpretation) per year, regardless of performance; moreover failure and early departure is effectively
rewarded because of a contracted fixed two-year term termination payment (although the effect of this is probably to maintain a failed situation - because the cost of change is prohibitive). t England players are paid around £100,000 per week; for doing another job (playing for their clubs). Failure at national level may be slightly upsetting for a day or two, but it does not really hurt or matter. t At least one England squad member had to be asked by the coach to make himself available for his country. Another could not be persuaded. National representation is a peak sporting achievement. Its worrying when candidates reject this notion, and just as worrying when such candidates are pursued and recruited. r Culturally the integrity and ethos of football - especially what it means to be a footballer - has been lost to the corporate world. The focus (of the role-models and therefore the kids) is no longer on ball skills and being the best - its on the brands, the replica shirts, the day-glo boots and the millionaire celebrity lifestyles. Not much works well when hype dominates substance.A national football team is in many ways like a business.It needs solid strategic and philosophical foundations.Misalignment at a basic level eventually producesproblems at the level of tactical or operationalimplementation. Like a national football team, if abusiness fails at a tactical or operational level, the causes- and therefore the solutions - are generally muchdeeper than they seem.This story can be useful in demonstrating/exploring the
strategic business analysis tools such as SWOT, PESTand Porters Five Forces model, and in researchingfundamental drivers/indicators of strategic viability.the new employee stories(importance of induction training fornew starters, initiative and lateralthinking, interpretation, delegation,rules, checking and monitoring)These (allegedly true) short stories provide amusingexamples of lateral thinking and initiative, and stafftraining (or lack of) at the workplace. It is better to trainpeople properly rather than assume that new startershave the necessary initiative to work out for themselveswhat they should be doing..the new bus driver storyWhile transporting some unfortunate mental patients fromone secure place to another, the newly appointed busdriver stopped at a roadside restaurant for natural break.On his return to the bus, all twenty patients were gone.Being a resourceful fellow and fearing the consequencesof his negligence, he drove to the next bus stop, wherehe claimed to be a replacement for the usual service.Allowing twenty people aboard, the driver made straightfor his destination, where he warned staff at the gatesthat the patients were deluded and extremely volatile.The angry patients were duly removed, sedated andincarcerated, and remained in detention for three days,until staff were able to check the records and confirmtheir true identities. The actual patients were never found.