Grace Ann Rosile, New Mexico State University
Robert Dennehy, Pace University
SouthWest Academy of Management Meetings

In this workshop, you will participate in a classroom-tested exercise. You will use the steps developed by Grace Ann Rosile to use storytelling to promote personal growth and change. Robert Dennehy will explain how this method has been applied at the organizational level, and how storytelling may be used for management development.


This workshop session will summarize the ways in which Rosile and Dennehy have used storytelling in the management classroom over the past several years. You will have an opportunity to participate in an exercise developed by Grace Ann for an Organization Development and Change class. This exercise demonstrates a storytelling-based strategy for change, which may be applied at both the personal and organizational levels.

You may use the steps listed below, to apply this method to your own life. Beginning with establishing a positive sense of identity, the questions below lead through problem identification and an assessment of positive and negative aspects of the problem. By identifying a "unique outcome", the individual may begin to re-conceptualize their past history. This new history reveals the previously hidden story of someone able to overcome their problem. The final questions guide the person in identifying sources of support for the new story, the story of the person who has successfully overcome this problem. This method is based on the work of White and Epston, (1991) Narrative Therapy, Auckland NZ: Dulwich Press.



1. If we were to ask your favorite grandparent, relative, or teacher, what are your most outstanding qualities or what they like best about you, what would they tell us?

2. Tell us about a long-term problem which you had or currently have (nothing serious like drug addiction, unless it is chocolate). Your problem could be very simple like fear of driving to a strange place when you have only a map to guide you, or fear of speaking to strangers, or believing you can not "do math." My example: I believed that I was not good at "directions," either giving them or finding places with a map.

3. Explain how the problem has benefitted you. My example: I did not feel I needed to give directions, because I was "not good" at it.

4. Explain the ways in which this problem has had negative effects on your life. My example: I did not go to unfamiliar places; I panicked easily on unfamiliar roads, assuming I was or soon would be lost. (You should give several more examples of the negative effects--take your time.)

5. Would you really like to be rid of this problem? Why?

6. Tell us about a "unique outcome" when this problem was not as strong, or when it was completely eliminated. My example: I flew from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and rented a car at the airport to drive to my interview. I got a map and directions from the rental agent. While going down the New Jersey turnpike, I began to think I must have missed the exit. Rather than panicking, I consciously chose to stay calm and wait for the next exit. It was the one I was looking for. I followed the rest of the directions without any problems. I concluded that New Jersey was much better than Pennsylvania at marking roads; I also concluded that with both a map and verbal directions, I could become good at following and also giving directions.

My other conclusion was that before I panic on a strange road thinking I have missed the turn, I should be patient a little longer because usually I have not, usually I just have not been trusting myself enough.

7. What evidence is there to support this "alternative" story? What would a close friend or family member tell us about you, if we told them about your new ability to overcome your problem, what would they say they saw in you in the past, which might allow them to predict your success in overcoming your problem? My example: Friends might say that in the past, typically I have not panicked in any situation, and am usually able to figure out a solution to my problems. My uncle might recall the time I consulted a map and directed us to our destination, when we had taken a wrong turn and become lost once in the city.

8. Who among your present friends and family, would say they could already see, or that they would support, this new behavior of yours which is overcoming your old problem? My uncle; my sister.

9. How might you enlist the support of these friends/family members in your continuing success in overcoming your problem? My example: By reminding my mother when she worries about me traveling, that I have been successful in the past, and that I have prepared well for the trip and taken all precautions for traveling.