Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Parables, Fables and Other Tales to Tell

I’m going to break one of my golden rules today, and you’re here to witness it.

There are certain turns of phrase that I refuse to allow to see print because I feel they smack of laziness on the part of the writer. At the top of that list is introducing a concept by use of the phrase, “Webster’s dictionary defines [insert word] as … .” I always picture this phrase being read in a monotone voice at warp speed by a nervous middle school student as he races through a five-minute presentation on gravity.

But after reading this story earlier today, I fear I have no other recourse but to use this dread technique. The article discusses business parables, such as those written by Ken Blanchard, who co-authored his latest, Who Killed Change, with John Britt, Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hoekstra. The article also mentions that this proliferation of storytelling business books has caused some outlets to create a separate category solely for business parables and fables.

So what’s the difference between a parable and a fable? I beg for forgiveness even as write this, but according to the dictionary of my choosing, a parable is a short narrative making a moral or religious point by comparison with natural or homely things. A fable is defined as a brief tale embodying a moral, sometimes using animals or objects as characters.

This immediately caused my mind to leap to the works of Patrick Lencioni, who in my opinion is the master of the business fable. Having read the majority of his works, I don’t recall animals or even inanimate objects populating his successful series of fables. His works have been some of the more interesting business books to be written in the last 10 years, even if they might be mislabeled as fables.

One book that I think should always be included in discussions about “storytelling” business volumes is The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. This tale of putting one’s own needs behind those of others is a book that should find its way to the desks of more and more executives. And just for the record, I’d classify it as a parable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to perform some form of penance  for breaking my own editorial code.


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