Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Once upon a time..." Storytelling as a Weapon

This post continues the Twitter based professional conversation between military leaders in the United States and faculty and students at Kings College in London. If you’re interested in participating just “tweet” your response with #CCLKOW

Storytelling is a powerful catalyst for learning, and likely has been since humans developed language. Stories enable people to reflect on their own experiences and abstract knowledge through the lens of another. It is an effective way for catalyzing learning in any organization. In his book "Tell me a Story" Roger Schank writes “Stories illustrate points better than simply stating the points themselves because, if the story is good enough, you usually dont have to state your point at all; the hearer thinks about what you said and figures out the point independently. The more work your hearer does, the more he or she will get out of the story." The best way to convey what we learn is through stories of our experiences. Stories contain many different lessons and are educational for people who were not present for the experience.

Storytelling can also be used as a weapon. In his article "Why Storytelling is The Ultimate Weapon" Jonathan Gottschall writes "But as the bloody metaphor of the Trojan Horse suggests, story is a tool that can be used for good or ill. Like fire, it can be used to warm a city or to burn it down. "

Social media is a particularly effective story-telling platform. ISIS has proved to be very adept at using social media to tell their story. Their latest chapter comes in their recent movie "Flames of War"

Is the story ISIS is telling being used to warm or burn its audience? It is safe to say that the anti-ISIS coalition sees it as "burn" but how does the target audience of the video view and receive  it?

In his article, Gottschall writes "The best way to emotionally connect other people to our agenda begins with “Once upon a time…”  Is the ISIS story trying to be the "Once upon a time" for the Muslims, with the narrative being they are fighting for them in order to reinstate the Caliphate from the 7th century?

In addition to the questions posed above here are a couple more questions for the #CCLKOW discussion:

What is the anti-ISIS coalition story? How are they using digital media? Is this US State Department Video the message?

Is this an effective counter to the ISIS story, or is there a better way?

“Tweet” your response with #CCLKOW

Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.

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