The week@work April 27 – May 3  Chief Storytelling Officer & Nancy Drew @ 85

Writing from North Carolina, this week@work has been a transcontinental journey. Observing life along Highway 40 you notice the new urban growth areas and the blight along old Route 66. Booming city centers and suburbs of Oklahoma City, Nashville, Knoxville and Charlotte contrast with graffiti covered, abandoned roadside attractions in a land that time forgot.

Travelling by car is typically reserved for tourists, but it’s worth the trip to reconnect with the reality of the changing economic landscape that’s hard to see from 20,000 feet.

Two stories to share from the past week:

Fast Company magazine reported on a new creative position, the ‘chief storytelling officer’:

“The CSO is a thoroughly modern title, the product of a growing interest in corporate storytelling, a pursuit that has lured other established writers and journalists into the world of corporate hackery.”

Using the example of Pakistani writer, Mohsin Hamid author of ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, we discover the value of novelists in a corporate environment. “He’s now working for the half-century-old creative consultancy Wolff Olins as the company’s first chief storytelling officer.”

“Last year, Wolff Olins—which in 2001 became a subsidiary of the marketing giant Omnicom Group—contacted Hamid to explore how he could contribute to its work; the more he thought about it, the more he recognized, he says, that “storytelling isn’t only for novelists, but CEOs and leaders as well.

More than just a feel-good theme, Hamid says a unifying narrative that all employees can grasp can help them work more creatively and independently—necessities in today’s company structures, which often rely on a distributed leadership approach, rather than the top-down supervision of yesterday.”

This week we celebrated the first national Independent Booksellers Day and the eighty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the first Nancy Drew mystery book. Author and journalist Theodore Jefferson wrote an excellent piece on the influence of the series on book publishing and expanding young women’s aspirations:

“Agency.

It is that which forms the foundation for any hero’s ability to save the day. In America, agency for teenage girls in literature made its debut in 1930 in the person of Nancy Drew.

Scholars Janice Radway and Nan Enstad assert that stories like Nancy Drew’s provide girls a “place to dream.” While they highlight romances and the “dime novels” of the pulp era as prominent examples, that “anything is possible” spirit was not limited to those forms.

It was the imaginative energy of that era that propelled Nancy Drew and characters like her into the kinds of stories nobody had ever seen before.

“…it is what Nancy Drew does in her stories that sets the Drew-niverse apart from what once was. Nancy gets into fights, drives a car, packs a gun and relies on herself to get out of tough situations. She is mechanically inclined and at the same time doesn’t act like most people in the 1930s would have expected a teenage girl to act.”

This week we celebrate storytelling as a way to communicate corporate culture and we recognize a heroine whose stories encouraged young readers to dream.

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