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On telling stories but hearing snippets: sense-taking from presentations of practice

Huxham, Chris and Sims, David and Beech, Nic (2009) On telling stories but hearing snippets: sense-taking from presentations of practice. Organization, 16 (3). pp. 371-388. ISSN 1350-5084

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The practice of inviting managers and leaders to make formal presentations telling the story of their experience to others is widespread. In this article we explore these as a way of looking at how audiences learn and change from stories they are told. We considered a range of speakers from high profi le 'circuit speakers' to little known 'experience sharers'. We develop a conceptualization of the way members of an audience learn from the stories that are told by speakers. We started from the expectation that people would feel that they had learned most from stories that came over as 'factual description', with causal connections, attributed agency and intentional acts. Our investigation, however, found that people remembered, and said that they had changed because of, stories that were rich in 'decorative' detail but which had little practical detail on what the speaker actually did or why. What was retained by audience members were snippets of a story which could be reconstituted later by the listener for their own purposes.