Day: August 12, 2019

Principle: Storytelling


Stories Connect us. They serve as a glimmering thread that weaves us together as people and weaves through the health care Experience. Storytelling is at the heart of humanity and has the power to spark our imagination — helping us care, believe, and act on what is important. Every Experience, every relationship, every subject is stored in our mind with a Story. 

Through Stories, we engage. In our work, we use Storytelling to build energy and relationships, ensuring that every individual that makes healing possible is acknowledged and activated as both a Story gatherer — listening and acknowledging — and a Storyteller — sharing and Connecting. Everyone has a Story, and every Story matters. Listen. Do you hear the Stories that are being told?

How Storytelling Fits into LIVING

As we immerse ourselves in the practice of LIVING, we bring new ideas to life, creating the space for Connections and setting the Stage for possibilities. Storytelling is the beautiful result of that practice. Stories emerge in the Moment and unfold when given the opportunity to be shared. They can be the catalyst that propels us forward and breathes new life into ideas. 

Checking In: Library Hotel

Just around the corner from the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan, the Library Hotel is a mecca for writing and LIVING out Stories. Carefully designed to amplify the Story and structure of an Experience, the hotel is organized (think Intention) using the Dewey Decimal System, and rooms are themed accordingly. Guests can select their favorite genre — social sciences, language, math and science, technology, the arts, literature, history, general knowledge, philosophy, or religion — and then sink into the books and the Experience in the room. Check into “Mystery” (800.006) and you’ll be treated to Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and other classics. Or “Fairy Tales” (800.005) with the Brothers Grimm, Aesop’s Fables, and Beauty and the Beast. The hotel also houses more than 6,000 books in their Reading Room, bookshelves throughout the property, Writer’s Den, and Poetry Garden. Knowledgeable and friendly staff, or “librarians,” will readily share an anecdote or Story when asked. The most important Story the librarians would like you to Experience, however, is the one you are writing while you stay. 

Do our organizations tell a consistent and inspired Story from warm welcome to fond farewell? How might we ensure that at every turn our team members, providers, patients, and guests are confident in our narrative?

Giving Stories Priority

Since the beginning of time, Stories have been a fundamental part of the human Experience, creating Connections, educating, sharing, and uniting. Now, more and more organizations are realizing the power of Storytelling and prioritizing it. Why? Quite simply, Storytelling creates empathetic bonds, provides a platform for learning, and engages customers in a fresh way. Take, for example, this Subaru marketing video, which focuses not on the specific car or it’s horsepower but rather on the Stories of people and their LOVE for each other. Subaru is showing how their brand can fit into our lives. Another great Storytelling organization, the New York Yankees, have been drawing us into their Story for more than 100 years. Using the YES Network, digital platforms created by players, and the great Storytelling capabilities of their leaders (think George Steinbrenner), they not only tell the Story of the hero’s journey of their players, they also use failure and turn it into Yankee lore. Players’ struggles become triumphs, and fans are engaged and Connected — making the team more human and relatable. New York City, fans, and the team all participate in the shared narrative.

Humans of The World

Brandon Stanton is a true exemplar of Storytelling. Some of you may remember his name from Inside Out, and others may simply be a fan of this great visual Storytelling. He is also the author of Humans of New York: Stories, his second best-seller, included in your LIVING Action Kit. Stanton is passionate about capturing real Stories with a single still image and providing the platform for those featured in the photographs to share their Story in their own words. While the images themselves are breathtaking, the raw, poetic, human captions shared alongside each photograph bring the Story to life. Stanton moved to New York City in 2010 and started taking pictures to get to know the people and the city better. He initially started out with a goal to capture 10,000 portraits and Stories and plot them on a map of the city. Now, millions of images and followers later, his Stories are still unfolding across the globe. To hear more of the Story behind this Storyteller, listen to this in-depth interview of Stanton on The Tim Ferriss Show.

If there were a Humans of the Health Care Experience page, what would be on it? How might capturing images and the personal Stories of healing and caring be used as a positive force in our organizations? Think of five specific images that would tell the Story of your organization’s Experience for team members, providers, patients and guests?

A Story We’ve All Heard

Airlines have been trying to refresh how they share their safety instructions for quite some time. In 2017, British Airways tried something completely unique. Featuring some of the UK’s most beloved celebrities, the spoof safety video aimed to keep passengers engaged while still meeting the legal reporting requirements. The clip ends with a call to action above and beyond following safety protocols: an ask for passengers to donate to Flying Start, a charitable partnership between British Airways and Comic Relief. Repetition is important in some of the organizational Stories we tell, but changing up the narrator or perspective of the Story can make all the difference.

After watching the British Airways safety video, reflect on Stories that are frequently told in health care and across our organizations. For those narratives that must be told frequently and repetitively, in what ways might we newly engage listeners? Is there another individual or team who can bring the Story to life?

In the Spotlight: Kyle Christiason at UnityPoint Health on Storytelling

This month, we are joined by our good friend and Experience exemplar Kyle Christiason, MD, Medical Director at UnityPoint Health, to understand how he has made Storytelling a vital component in his practice and why it matters.

What does the principle of Storytelling mean to you at your organization?

Storytelling is a vital, innate skill for humans. We are all Connected by Storytelling through history — it is in our DNA to Connect with one another and is core to our survival. Storytelling and Story listening inspire us to become passionate about something or someone, and allows us to understand someone else’s Experience just by LIVING through their Story and the feeling.  

Some of the most transformative Stories we share — both tragic and wonderful — occur in health care. They are often major mileposts — before or after the diagnosis…the surgery…the birth. And our life Stories are anchored to those milestone Moments —those are the Stories we all tell and share. They remind us why it matters that we make every Moment more special and meaningful.

How do you, as a leader and in your organization, use Storytelling as part of your Experience journey? 

In the clinical space, Storytelling is a powerful and learnable tool. It helps teams focus on the privilege to care for friends, families, and neighbors. We start each day at the clinic with reflection, reminding one another why we are here and sharing Stories of a few memorable Moments. This Story practice becomes a call to action for our team to show up in the narrative and care for and with patients in a meaningful way. 

We end our days with a two-step debrief practice. First, sharing any pain points of the day. What happened today that might we be able to do better tomorrow? Practicing, asking, challenging, and solving with each other on a regular basis has become a part of our culture. Then, we finish by asking each person to share their “joy bombs” — those special Moments that brought Joy to their work, large or small. Through this Storytelling practice, our care teams are now Intentionally LOOKING to create and remember those special Moments. The times that give them Joy — I think that helps them reduce their risk for burnout, helps them Stage Experiences for each other and for our patients, and sends them home each day with these Stories on their minds and in their hearts to help them feel positive and inspired from their day.

What Advice do you have for Lab Partners? 

Lean in. I love the quote from Michael Margolis, “If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories. If you want to change the culture, change the stories.” As leaders, we should practice Storytelling. It’s okay to not feel natural, lean into the discomfort. When we practice Storytelling such as the dedicated time for Stories in my clinic, we can become more comfortable and when we listen we become more meaningfully Connected 

Be the best Story gatherer in your organization. Seek out Stories from different people, departments, and regions. Regularly engage in Story rounds by simply asking a few questions: What do you LOVE about what you do? Tell me one thing you did to improve the life of another person this week? What’s one thing someone else did that made you feel special? Be a role model for others to see how easy it really is. Sometimes we make it harder than it should be. By modeling Storytelling and Story gathering you can take down the barrier of it feeling overwhelming.

Become the best pollinator of Stories in your organization. When we hear something special, share it with someone else. Not only can we be touched by someone’s Experience, we will be more likely to LOOK for those special Moments in our own life. Listening and sharing creates a culture of caring for one another, celebrating what is good. When it’s part of your culture to practice this, everything else becomes easier.

Sometimes there are Stories we should stop telling. Not every Story and not all words or phrases need to be used. It’s amazing how many warfare terms there are in health care. There may be a “war room” for developing strategy. We refer to our caregivers as the “front line.” We talk about providers being “in the trenches.” When we launch a new initiative, we call it “pulling the trigger.”

When we refer to health care as being the same as warfare, we are destined to subvert our goals. However, we can Joyfully embrace being a part of what I consider to be a sacred and noble profession by using terms that are more appropriate. Rather than “frontline,” consider  “face-to-face caregivers.” Instead of helping a “non-compliant patient,” consider “let’s support this person to be their most successful self.”

Consider nonverbal Stories. We can also change our Stories through our non-verbal language. When we leave the examination room and LOOK at a person with our hand on the doorknob asking, “Is there anything else you want to talk about today?” we are sending a message that screams “I am done with our conversation even if you are not”.

Remember the power of small.  In leadership, we can focus on changing the game by focusing on the small details. A genuine smile at the check-in desk. A nurse remembering my child’s name. A physician who calls me at home to ensure I’m safe and I understand my medications. A culture of introducing every member of the care team during a hospital stay. It’s taking a Moment to address “me” before addressing the health record.   

Transformation doesn’t happen in a cataclysmic Moment but rather the millions of tiny miracles that happen every day and each of those Moments is a Story waiting to be shared.

High Tech, High-Touch Stories

One of Google’s newest under-the-radar tools, Bulletin, aims to put the power of local news in the hands of those who are living the real story: residents. News is, after all, merely a telling of stories and today anyone and everyone has the capacity to share and spread news. A digital, real-time news app, Bulletin requires no special platform or capability and makes it incredibly simple to report and share. The goal of the app is to be hyperlocal and shed light on what larger news outlets, or even channels that consider themselves to be local news, fail to feature. Currently being tested in Oakland, CA and Nashville, TN, Bulletin empowers everyone to be a journalist and report out everything from accidents to protests to celebrations.

How could a tool like Bulletin encourage and develop a Storytelling and Story sharing community across the health care industry and within health care systems? What might we learn from one another?

SPOTIFY Playlist: Storytelling

This month’s playlist celebrates some of the greatest Storytellers: musicians. Press play and hear how artists of different genres reflect on LIVING through a musical, story-centric journey.