Sunday, August 22, 2010

Elements of Storytelling

Storytelling is often a core differentiator apparent in the places we enter, experience and explore. This is evident from my recent trip to Montreal where I was among friends who shared with me opportunity to visit two distinct places within their great city. The shared sensory experience between the places I visited were unique. Both experiences introduced clearly defined stories. The enterprise level global management conference that utilized the latest in multi disciplinary media forms with a core offering in the form of a book fair. That experience and related thematic stories compared to a facility for people who travel vast distances south from Northern Canada to Montreal for medical care. Their stories painted on concrete barriers. The primal elements either textual or visual of stories bring meaning and reference relevant to people from all backgrounds. This is the subject of the post. 

Back in Montreal a week or so ago I was at the Academy of Management conference with my Doctoral supervisor. The conference had all the top academic publishers displaying books at the event.

We spent some time strolling among leading publishing house’s checking out the latest editions and catalogues. Some items made it into my AOM branded tote bag. The book fair was a lesson on the emergent trends popular within business culture today.

Corporate Social Responsibility echoed throughout the conference the movement is a central story and theme today. Design thinking is also a dominant topic of conversation and text. Much theory was being offered about the Internet and the online universe. An extensive selection of texts from academia about management theory and practical reference guides were available in abundance for the delegates to choose from.

Corporate Social Responsibility uses similar themes to our Amerindian cultures including constructs such as conservation, spirituality, sharing, preservation and other beliefs and traditions. Spirituality is now a management process that is being promoted among top thinkers. This is evidence the corporate world is moving toward more balanced systems and interested in making a positive sustainable difference around the individual organization's sphere of influence.

Inuit paintings shot with iphone

The weekend also included time spent at Nunavik House. This place provides lodging for Quebec’s Inuit people who travel to the south for medical care. They arrive in Montreal from a remarkable place known as the Ungava Peninsula. Their home is located at the far reaches of Northern Quebec close to the Artic. The period map below depicts the geographic region under former Labrador boundaries.

My experience at Nunavik House included a brief lesson in pronunciation with proper emphasis and accent from an Inuk women. She darted away abruptly after saying the community names in her unique language. She pronounced her people's community names  along the northern coast. 

I was also offered on loan a book about the people of Nunavik. The book provides northern perspective of earlier times authored by Dorothy Mesher's, Kuujjuaq.

Map illustrating the Ungava Penninsula before Quebec assumed the territories

The tour included walking about Nunavik House’s outdoor patio area. I was struck by the magnificent artwork that was painted along the concrete walls. The paintings transformed the space into a vibrant art gallery.These images and illustrated representations are fully exposed to the outdoor weather yet they retain a remarkable bright illuminated cast of colours; full of meaning. This backdrop in a setting where the inhabitants are impacted by modernization and cultural transformation within their society. Care facilities exhibit first hand the difficult aspects of life. The individuals within these places who provide for and intervene for people in need are exemplars of what's good about humanity.

The contrast between the two places I experienced made the time in Montreal a memorable occasion. Elements of storytelling were evident and core to both places I visited.  The experience among top management theorists leveraging the beliefs and practices of ancient civilizations. The patients of Nunavik house rendering visual images within their temporary living quarters. These works produced perhaps for others who may find meaning and understanding in the icons and shapes and stories rendered along the concrete wall.

Elements of storytelling in both surroundings were integrated to enhance the inhabitant’s experience. People use stories to help "package" environments and extend meaning and context. Stories bound in book form among the management crowd. Murals painted on concrete surfaces meaningful to the people who benefit from learning and understanding the artists themes. 

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