Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a talk on Ted in October of 2009 addressing the dangers of a “single story”. I show that talk in almost all of my courses, especially those courses on global management and international business. After I show the video, I ask my students if they have had experiences where they had made the mistake of falling into the trap of a single story, that narrow view of people based upon something we saw, something we heard, or something we read. The discussions are usually light-hearted, the “oops” moments we all have, especially when we travel abroad. Yet, what is interesting to me is how many of my students refer to Ms. Adichie’s video either in their projects, in conversations with me, or in course reflection papers. They tell me that the video has helped them to think more broadly, and more positively, about people and, given the nature of my courses, recognize better ways of doing business with people here and in other countries.
It is now easy to share a story with hundreds, or thousands, or more people throughout the world and sadly it is also now easy to shape people’s attitudes with a carefully crafted single story. There is a responsibility in preparing a story that broadens people’s perspectives rather than narrows them. It is also a responsibility demanded by Ted. Oh, it also has to be interesting, engaging, and, if possible, fun.
It is a challenge that, for me at least, consists of a lot reflection and “do-overs”. I am refining skills that will make me a better storyteller as well as learning ways to help my students be better storytellers themselves. I think I am getting there, I guess we will find out in September.