2-5-1 Storytelling

Lucky enough to arrive at KMWorld the night before the main portion of the conference, I had the pleasure of catching a Nancy Dixon session that evening called “High Impact Storytelling“.   Although it was not a competition, there was one story in that session that rose above all the others.  Although I doubt I will do the story full justice, I will try to re-tell it here

The original storyteller, Lt Col Karuna Ramanathan, lives in Singapore and has a pretty heavy accent when speaking English.  Although accents often create a communication gap, in this case I believe it helped because one had to concentrate throughout to pick up all the words.

As you can imagine from his title, Karuna is part of the military in Singapore.  He starts out by setting the scene and explaining that military personnel in Singapore are very reluctant to share their opinions due to their culture.  This can make for a very quiet after-action-review (AAR).  In order to maximize the value of the program, they need to coax out the tacit knowledge.  So, his team developed a framework they call 2-5-1.  It goes like this:

  • 2
    • Who you are
    • Summary of your experience
  • 5 fingers
    • Little finger – what parts of the effort did not get enough attention
    • Ring finger – What relationships were formed, what you learned about relationship building
    • Middle finger – what you disliked, what/who made you frustrated
    • Pointer finger – what you would do better next time around, what you want to tell those who were “in charge” about what they could do better
    • Thumb (up) – what went well.  What was good.
  • 1 – the most important takeaway from the effort

This is a framework that everyone can relate to.  It is also a framework that is easily remembered and easily walked through while standing up in front of a group.  Those who are uncomfortable speaking in front of a group can use one hand to grasp the corresponding finger on the other hand for each section…adding to their comfort level by giving them a prop.

If you have a good storytelling framework, tell us about it in the comments.


12 responses to “2-5-1 Storytelling

  1. I am a visual person and using the hand to help tell a story is an awesome idea. Thanks, Swan!

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  3. Danya Hodgetts

    This is brilliant! Effective and elegantly simple.

  4. I like how each of the fingers relates to the information to be shared – very clever!

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  10. I will use this but call it “2-5-1: 2 Points, 5 Fingers, 1 Takeaway”

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