Pierre Blanc-Sahnoun, France
What are some of the most interesting, hopeful, recent developments in narrative therapy / narrative practice in your context?
The most important development in our context is the bringing of narrative ideas in organisational and corporate contexts, which we could call ‘narrative coaching’ (Blanc-Sahnoun, 2009; see also Kure, 2010). A lot of professional coaches and consultants have been trained here in France in narrative practice. We began to experiment with how companies or organisations could work with narrative ideas, and acknowledge and honour workers’ skills and knowledges about life instead of imposing global requirements. This also means deconstructing a set of very invasive and powerful dominant stories, such as power, ‘added value’ for the shareholder, compliance, performance, and success, and their various effects on all the contexts of peoples’ lives in and out of organisations. It also drives us to consider the companies themselves as narrative productions based on the values, dreams, and hopes of some people, and encourage them to strive for a cultural platform which would be able to welcome the values, dreams, and hopes of their workers, so as to build powerful and harmonious work-communities and respectful work-cultures and practices.
How do you imagine the futures of narrative practice in your local context?
I would like to carry on this research and find a way to invite managers and leaders to hold a narrative vision of their work and mission as business leaders – to take a step back from ‘delivering the objectives’ and realise that they are culture-builders and at stake of being recruited by the ‘big’ dominant stories of the global corporate culture that engage them in disrespectful, manipulative, and often violent management acts.
Can you share some examples of Michael’s ideas being carried on in significant ways?
We have worked with work-comunities confronted with suicide in the workplace, hardship and economic crisis, redundancy plans, and resisting the destruction of local plants. We have also done work based on the idea that resistance to change is not a ‘dysfunction’, but can sometimes be proof of collective intelligence and a tribute to local hopes and values crushed by the global story of managerial performance.
Can you share some examples / stories about local innovations about how practitioners are developing their own diverse forms of narrative practice?
In a context of narrative coaching, people are working with boards and team-building; doing conflict management work; and also retelling through texts, corporate movies, cartoons, and even corporate clowns who propose their own vision of the main stories influencing the work-communities’ lives. Relocalisation of problems’ territories while deconstructing the broader corporate culture is also a highly promising journey.
Are there particular cultural / language considerations in your context that may require or inspire adaptations / innovations in narrative practice?
The traditional business culture is expert, centred, and violent, and we have to adapt most of the narrative concepts and find a pedagogical way to bring them in without being dismissed by this culture. As an example, ‘definitional ceremonies’ has a religious undertone that led us to find another wording, as our country which is obsessed with sects and not mixing spirituality with laicity (since the French revolution in 1789 which separated State affairs from religious power).
If you were to have a particular wish in relation to the future of narrative practice in your context, what would it be?
I would very much like to devote the rest of my working life to develop narrative ideas in big multinational private organisations, because these organisations define and promote a new global telos which could be called ‘normality through performance and yield’. I think that the corporate world badly needs narrative ideas to bring back the human contribution to business culture. This would be a nice way for me to contribute at my local level to making a difference and also to walk with honour in Michael’s steps, which consists, in my view, to continue the journey he shared with us.
Blanc-Sahnoun, P. (2009). Narrative coaching in a professional community after a suicide. Explorations: An E-Journal of Narrative Practice, (1), 36–45.
Kure, N. (2010). Narrative mediation and discursive positioning in organisational conflicts. Explorations: An E-Journal of Narrative Practice, (2), 24–35.