Often our clients who want to learn storytelling for business will contact us after they have done research on the web or at libraries to learn storytelling techniques. Many times the conversation will start like, "I have just read (some title) book and can’t figure out how to actually do storytelling. Can you help me?" Although we have been training business owners for many years, there always seems to be the latest book or magazine article to excite people. That is not a bad thing.
Lately, the book the client refers to is "Wake Me Up When the Data is Over."
Produced with a grant from the National Storytelling Network*, "Wake Me" is an acceptable book if you need help cheerleading a new process of organizational storytelling. "Wake Me" excels on the surface of getting people excited about corporate communications but fails in providing the substance of the storytelling process.
The editor has collected a large set of stories regarding how some companies use storytelling for organizational change and communication issues. Each story concludes with a few comments from the editor of "advice for others" for the benefit of readers’ organizational architecture. These chapters are followed by a long list of "who’s who" complete with the alphabet soup of initials and degrees that sometimes seem more important than the actual work of the individuals themselves.
If you are looking for a good book to promote the high-concept idea of storytelling to your company, then this is the book for you. If you are looking for a guide to help develop the skills of business storytelling, this book will not be enough. Frequently, our clients either have read this book or had someone summarize it for them before they call our staff to help learn actual skills. "Wake Me" is also good if your company relies on "corporate-ese" to communicate rather than using real-world words.
We had hoped for a more complete book since the NSN was behind this publication, but "Wake Me" reads as if it was rushed to print in order to capitalize on the current fad-like nature of the words "corporate storytelling." This was surprising for us, with the book coming from an organization that should understand the very bedrock nature of the power of storytelling, a power that will be around when the current everybody-is-a-storytelling-consultant cycle dies down.
"Wake Me" is a good book to help build a case for storytelling in business and will be a pleasant addition to your collection. If you want to actually learn how to tell a story to your board, clients and staff, then seek out the skills of an effective storytelling coach. We can suggest several. –Storyteller.net Reviews (4/2009)
The editor of the book sent us a long Email. Here are the relevant parts:
"First, the book was not produced by a grant from NSN. I fully funded its development out of my business. It took three years of time to produce--two years full time of my time as well as countless hours of time from contributors and the 171 business leaders we interviewed for it. This is after 11 re-writes of the book proposal with the publisher. To say it was rushed to production shows that you have no awareness of the process NSN and I used to carefully craft it." (Storyteller.net Staff Note: We did not say it was rushed, but it read as rushed to us.)
"Second, the book follows Stories Trainers Tell, a book I co-authored in 2003 that was the impetus for Wake Me Up. That book contains all the missing elements you are referring to in its 500 pages: where to find great stories, how to structure them, tips on storytelling, the ethics behind story use, etc. They are companion books. As a result, NSN and I specifically did not include the basics in it. Plus, there are many good books by Doug Lipman and others on the basics in the field."
*Regarding NSN and this Book:
The NSN claims sponsorship of this book. In a membership newsletter of August 24, 2006 they wrote:
"NSN Member Lori Silverman brought to NSN her relationship with Jossey-Bass publishers and this October we have another new book coming out titled Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over; How Organizations are Using Stories to Drive Results. NSN is the book’s sponsor and our logo is on the front cover, information and logo is on the back cover, and a page of information about NSN is inside. Several members contributed to the book and it will be distributed to bookstores throughout the country."
In addition, in the editor’s response, she advises of the "process NSN and I used" in creating the book. So, our comments about a grant were incorrect. However, the NSN did provide sponsorship and the editor advises she created the book with NSN. We appreciate the chance to clarify.