Charlton reviews

In the first of a new series, John Charlton leafs through the latest
training book to land on his desk

Once upon a time, in pre-Playstation Britain, storytelling was a key
cultural activity. Morals, lessons, wisdom and family and group histories were
imparted through stories.

Why, when I sat at my grandmother’s grizzled knee in Sunderland, I was
regaled by local tales which conveyed one simple message to guide me through
life’s ups and downs. It was "dinna go down pit, hinnie," which
translates as "find yourself a comfy berth, pet".

Sadly storytelling has waned. There are no storytellers listed in my local
Yellow Pages. But Margaret Parkin, principal of Training Options, believes
storytelling can play a significant role in training.

Some of you will have read her earlier books, Tales for Training and Tales
for Coaching. Now she has published a third, Tales for Change, which matches a
collection of fables and stories to five categories of organisational change:
dealing with change; being creative in times of change; the roles of leaders
and teams undergoing change; dealing with the stress caused by change; and
developing emotional intelligence.

On the use of storytelling in promoting creativity in times of change,
Parkin writes: "Stories, metaphors and story-based activities… can be
used as part of a strategic planning, brainstorming or mind-mapping session.
They can be used to unpick a problem and… can encourage people to see that
there is not just one solution to a problem but very often a great many."

Such advice may convince those trainers wary of using old tales to explain
the challenges and benefits of change. Of more use are the stories, ranging
from Aesop’s Fables to internet postings.

But many of the ‘morals’ which follow each story, such as ‘look after the
rocks and the sand will look after itself’ seem trite to this reader. They
smack of Glastonbury Festival bong-stall wisdom rather than being of use to

Tales for Change, by Margaret Parkin, Kogan Page, ISBN 0-7494-4106-2,
£18.99. Margaret Parkin is a speaker at HRD Week on 22 April.

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