Stephen Denning – Squirrel Inc.


Squirrel Inc. is a classic metanarrative: it tells a story about the importance and power of stories and storytelling in professional organizations. As such, it effectively performs the edicts it preaches about “which kind of story makes sense in which context and why” (xvi).” We follow the characters (all of whom are squirrels) through their quest to change their company’s strategic directions and manage their operating methods. All the while, we’re entertained with dialogue and conflict, but are also given helpful and practical sidebars which laconically spell out the storytelling tactics we’re supposed to be gleaning from the experience of reading them in action. Some examples of these tips as they apply to telling a “springboard story” (a story to spark change) are:

Step 1: “Be clear about what change you’re trying to make” (9).
Step 2: “Think of an incident, a story, where the change has already happened” (10).
Step 3: “Tell the story from the point of view of a single protagonist who is typical of the potential audience” (10).

“Anchor the listeners’ imagination initially in reality. And then they’ll follow that story into the future” (15).

Squirrel Inc. is an important book because of its attempt to legitimize narrative as a highly effective communication method in corporate settings. If we’re not convinced of this by the theoretical epitaphs which begin each chapter, then there’s the undeniable fact that the story of Squirrel Inc. itself is entertaining. The experiential power of the book itself thus makes a convincing case for the power of stories to capture attention, to communicate values and identities, and the need to constantly reinvent and open conceptual spaces to keep things fresh.

My Question

Daniel Pink, Heath & Heath, and Denning all explicitly invoke narrative as a key characteristic or trait of the conceptual age. Pink calls story “the essence of persuasion.” Heath & Heath maintain that stories catalyze people into action and make abstractions come alive. Denning claims that “storytelling is our very nature.”

What connections can you make between narrative and interpellation? Does interpellative design always involve narrative, or is narrative a sub-category of something more essential?


~ by ahatter on September 15, 2009.

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