May 18, 2021

What we can learn about storytelling from our First Nations Peoples


Last week I spent time in the Northern Territory, trekking parts of the Larapinta Trail and taking in the sites and stories of Uluru (Ayers Rock). If you are looking for proof of the power of stories then you need look no further than the First Nations People of Australia. They are the oldest living culture going back over 65,000 years.

Values and Behaviour

Traditional stories are shared to pass on values and expected behaviour. They are also used to pass on knowledge, including information about land, plants and animals.

Over the few days we were at Uluru we heard some creation stories that communicate the values of the local people. This included the Lungkata story that reminds us of what happens when we are greedy and dishonest. Another example was the Mala story that encourages us to finish what we start and to take notice of danger warnings.

Shared Orally

These stories have been shared over tens of thousands of years and have only recently been written down. You can read them here.

Throughout history they have been shared orally and this shows the power of stories. A good story will help you understand the message, remember it and retell it to others without losing its meaning. This is what the First Nations People do with storytelling. They pass on values and behaviours through stories.

Links to Business

We face this same challenge in business when we need our people to understand the company’s purpose, values and behaviours. We tend to create documents or PowerPoint slides stating these values. Sometimes we have them printed in our foyers and on coffee mugs. Despite that we wonder why our people don’t remember them, let alone make decisions based on them.

Whether you are wondering how to get your team connected to your values, embarking on a culture change program or simply looking at a more effective way to induct new team members, take some lessons from our First Nations People and share stories to connect and engage.