Jerome Jewell spent much of his career chasing perfect answers to critical business questions. He began in commercial banking in the 1970s, at Chase Manhattan Bank, where one day Bob, a VP with whom he was working, presented him with two questions that would change his life.
"Where are you headed?" and "Why are you still here?" asked Bob, who then proceeded to convince Jerome that he needed to leave the Bank and get an MBA from a top business school. Jerome resisted, but eventually, reluctantly applied to Columbia Business School and was accepted. One of the more prestigious, and difficult MBA programs in the world, the rigors of the program prompted him to ask himself "I know I'll complete this program, But Then What?".
Jerome then completed the 2-year program in 16 months. That was in 1981, but he would continue to be fascinated by the power of "asking the right questions". He then joined another industry leader, IBM, and invested 13 wonderful years there, helping clients in telecomm, systems integration, airlines and banking, resolve difficult challenges in strategy, marketing and operations.
In 1995, he formed Jewell Consulting Group. As a management consultant, executive coach and public speaker since then, he has looked back and identified two prominent patterns of workplace behavior:
1. Questions vs. Answers - Highly driven and self-motivated people form groups committed to finding answers to difficult questions, but too often, after finding the answers, they realize that the questions they were asking were wrong. Perfect answers to misdirected questions. This creates misalignment that runs deep.
2. Stories Move People more than Mere Facts Jerome has addressed audiences ranging from 15-person seminars to 1500-person conferences, along with thousands of one-on-one dialogues. After painstakingly presenting a concept, defining the problem, presenting the facts, and formulating alternative solutions, attendees would often gather afterwards or contact him days or weeks later to ask follow-up questions. The nature of the questions caught Jerome by surprise.
Instead of asking, "Could you explain fact X, Y or Z?" his audiences began asking "Could you tell me more about the team in the story that you shared? What happened in the end? Did they succeed?" The more he engaged, the more they asked for story-based delivery, instead of recitation of facts and figures. They wanted to know the background and meaning of the facts, and they were not satisfied until given a story that brought the facts to life. With all the energy he'd invested in presenting factual details and linear arguments, the element that attendees retained and found most worthy of further examination was....the story.
Jerome was disappointed at first, and downright frustrated. "Why the stories?", he asked, thinking the answer was that he's either a great storyteller or a terrible communicator of facts. The core answer is neither of the above.
People embrace stories more than pure facts because stories bring life and realism to a topic in a way that compares to no other form of communication. (Visual art and music tell stories but cannot communicate a detailed call to action.) Stories make facts embraceable by providing examples of practice and application, consequences and rewards. Few arguments are resolved by mere facts, as people will ignore the facts if they conflict with the "story" they already embrace.
After spending so many years as an "arguer", Jerome found this conclusion unsettling...but also highly stimulating. It explained why teams often ignored the memos, endless PowerPoint slides and mandates from CEOs, and re-illuminated the power of active listening, because one can only gather and deliver good stories my listening first.
Jerome realized that he needed to re-define his role and become an "interrogator of the world", focusing on two elements: - Defining and asking better questions, and - Locating and communicating the stories that help people find better answers
Concurrently, in an effort to broaden his perspective and expose his thinking to fresh ideas, Jerome reached out and began conducting primary research in a variety of areas, including:
- Financial services (mutual funds) - CRM (call center operations) - Professional sports management (NFL) - National defense, security and intelligence - Experiential learning Why Storytelling?
We argue the facts of war, the economy, social issues and in our relationships. But facts seldom, if ever, result in these arguments influencing anyone to change their beliefs or actions. If we really want to engage or influence people, that can only be done through "story". Working with individuals and teams driven by a stubborn desire to "find a better way", Jerome eventually shifted his focus to the use of stories as well. Apparently, he's not alone:
At NASA, storytelling is viewed as a "particularly fitting modality", as NASA scientists use storytelling to share the results of their research and projects with their colleagues. In 2008, NASA commissioned storyteller Jay O'Callahan to research, compile and deliver a story to celebrate NASA's 50th Anniversary. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, storytelling is used as an ongoing tool for building community and authenticity, to make sense of the organization and to spur learning.
The IBM Knowledge Socialization Project at the Watson Research Center states that: "Finding a way to share knowledge that exists only in minds and imaginations is crucial to the success of any organization. Storytelling has been a powerful force for the transmission of knowledge in human societies since ancient times. When compared to non-narrative text, stories are deeper and richer, more compelling and more memorable."
The IBM Lotus Research unit believes: "Stories are powerful tools for insuring the overall value and user experience of designed systems. This is particularly true when designing collaborative systems, whose true value stems from the real world consequences of the collaboration they enable among the people who use them."
Dr. Alex Bennet, former Chief Knowledge Officer, U.S Department of Navy: "Stories have the capacity to increase our descriptive capabilities, a strength in this age of uncertainty...Description capabilities are essential in strategic thinking and planning, and create a greater awareness of what we could achieve".
Today, Jerome's stories inspire, stimulate and provoke, rather than attempting to convince audiences through argument. He still offers introspection and humor, and encourages those with an appetite for discovery, to continue the search for a better way.
Jerome's primary topics include:
- ".....But Then What?" - "Emotional Intelligence, Constructive Conflict and Leadership Effectiveness" - "Why Should Anyone Follow You?" - "The Power of Intrinsic Motivation" - "Moving Beyond Productivity Myths" - "First, Ask Better Questions" - "Enduring Lessons from Enduring Communities" - "Row 12, Seat F"
Previous speaking engagements have included the following:
"An inspirational speaker....We were very impressed with his knowledge of business management and his logical approach....talks on "real life" management....energizing presentation style".
"Jerome's dynamic and candid presentation style was engaging. He offered practical and relevant advice."
Strategic Thinking in Organizational Development and Marketing
- BBSA Annual Conference
Executive Coaching as a Performance Enhancer
Wyoming Business Alliance
"...a timely presentation on the impacts of technological changes in the workplace. Jerome was first rate...one of the stars of this years' forum."
Northern Transportation Company, Canada
"......he has that uncanny ability to cut through the chaff....I have pages of 'ah-has'..... a character and style worth remembering."
The Bailey Company
"His new ideas on old concepts helped me understand how to be a better leader."
ITT Industries, Mexico
"His enthusiasm is immediately transmitted to the audience".
U.S Department of Homeland Security
Leading Better Through Emotional Intelligence
Jerome's story also includes having served as a seminar facilitator for the American Management Association (AMA) and Management Centre Europe, in Brussels. He has taught courses in Howard University's MBA Program and coached MBA students at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. He currently coaches MBA and Executive MBA students at Columbia Business School and has been an instructor in Colorado Outward Bound's Mountain Division.
Jerome has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mt. Rainier, run the Marine Corps Marathon and numerous 10Ks and 13.1s, and he's current training to swim his third Alcatraz Challenge across San Francisco Bay in June 2012. A native New Yorker, having worked in a dozen nations, his language skills include Spanish, some German, and ongoing study of French. He's an avid bicyclist, downhill skier and very mediocre fly fisherman.
...and yes, he somehow manages to interweave many of these experiences into his stories.
Jerome's book, "On The Balcony" is a compilation of stories and insights on all of the above and more. He hopes that is will be published someday, if hell doesn't freeze over first.
Jewell Consulting Group Washington, DC, USA 202-248-8208