MAN 5190 Storytelling as a Strategic Tool

MAN 5190 Storytelling as a Strategic Tool

Course code: 
MAN 5190
Communication and Culture
Course coordinator: 
Guro Refsum Sanden
Course name in Norwegian: 
Storytelling som strategisk verktøy
Product category: 
Executive Master of Management
2023 Autumn
Active status: 
Teaching language: 
Course type: 
One semester

In today’s work life most of us experience an increasing need for motivating and engaging coworkers, partners, investors, customers, and other stakeholders. Storytelling is an effective tool for doing so. Stories engage and persuade by playing on our emotions, and we use them, consciously or unconsciously, to make sense of our surroundings. Hence, they influence our professional work life in most areas. Organizational stories can turn leaders into heroes or villains, and they can encourage or sink strategy and change processes. Stories told by customers can make or break a brand, and the narrative structure of prospectuses can influence the success of stock market launches. Understanding the role storytelling plays and how to employ it has thus become an important strategic tool at the disposal of managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs.

Research has revealed universal principles for effective storytelling across genres and formats. And some business leaders, like co-founder of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, have applied the same timeless storytelling principles that also underpin myths, folk tales, and Hollywood movies. His highly effective presentations, deemed legendary by some, were structured as stories of tension and struggle between heroes and villains, which appealed to his audiences’ emotions.

To develop such storytelling skills, we have to open up the black box of story to explicate, articulate and codify the nature of story. In this course, we work with a wide range of stories from organizational life and marketing to movies and folk tales with the aim of recognizing their universal nature, which helps us understand how all these different types of stories relate to our own storytelling. Based on these insights, participants learn to structure their own stories to better serve specific objectives. And they learn how to apply universal story principles to make their stories more believable, engaging and persuasive.

Work life stories seldom exist separately from each other. More typically, they are interrelated, creating so-called metanarratives. As the Star Wars saga binds the stories of each movie together, an organizational metanarrative may combine an organization’s “little stories” into more consistent and effective parts of a coherent grand story. Participants will thus also learn how to structure stories into coherent metanarratives.

Stories are told in numerous formats and contexts, as in orally delivered speeches, live or recorded, in written or audiovisual company presentations, in marketing and campaign materials, in policy memos, etc. Or they may be told in bits and pieces through casual conversations or email exchanges. Each format will demand different presentation skills, but no matter format or context the story itself will be at the core. In this course we focus on the role and relevance of storytelling in the workplace. 

Learning outcomes - Knowledge

After completing the course, participants should be familiar with the microfoundations of storytelling. They should have in-depth knowledge of:

  • How stories are distinct from other forms of narratives
  • The persuasive power of stories: theories on identification and narrative transportation
  • The nature, structure, and functions of fundamental story elements: characters, plot, and setting
  • Principles of effective storytelling for desired outcomes and reactions among target groups
  • The nature, structure, and functions of grand stories and metanarratives
  • Business applications of storytelling, including areas such as management and marketing
Learning outcomes - Skills

Participants should develop storytelling and -making skills. After completing the course, they should be able to:

  • Distinguish stories and proto-stories from other narratives
  • Analyze stories and identify fundamental story elements
  • Evaluate and improve story structures
  • Create more engaging stories from given materials
  • Structure stories effectively according to storyteller objectives and desired emotional reaction
  • Identify and manage metanarratives
General Competence

Participants should understand how stories convey meaning, and that stories can be used to deceive, misrepresent, and distort. Participants must therefore develop ethical awareness parallel with their storytelling skills and should be able to consider and discuss ethical dilemmas that may arise when applying storytelling to business practice.

Course content

The course covers six topics:

Topic 1: Work life relevance of storytelling

  • Storytelling affecting individuals, organizations, and markets
  • Work life applications: Sensemaking, identity and identification, learning, managing, change processes, communication, strategy implementation, branding, resource acquisitions, etc.

Topic 2: How stories work

  • Stories' ability to influence
  • Meaning, entertainment, and emotions
  • Narrative transportation and identification

Topic 3: What stories are

  • Stories and other types of narratives
  • Fundamental story elements: characters, plots, and settings
  • Grand stories and metanarratives

Topic 4: How to create and use stories

  • Story structure: putting story elements together
  • The universal nature of story structure
  • Characters and character traits

Topic 5: How to organize your storytelling

  • Managing organizational grand stories 
  • Strategic storytelling to achieve specific goals

Topic 6: The dark side of storytelling

  • Storytelling as a tool for manipulation
  • The storyteller’s ethical dilemmas
Teaching and learning activities

The course will be delivered using the Insendi platform with a combination of campus and online learning process. Some teaching may take place in English.

There are three (3) on-campus modules, each consisting of two (2) full day class sessions. The online modules, which cover about one third of the course, will combine different web-based learning activities, to be completed both individually (e.g. podcasts, videos, reflection activities) and in groups (e.g. open discussions). The combination of the on-campus and online learning modules equals 75 lecturing hours over one semester.

In addition to the required reading students will have to find and watch a small selection of popular feature films available on regular streaming services, some campaign videos, commercials, presentations, etc. available on YouTube, as well as some short literature (drama, fables, or similar).

Please note that while attendance of the on-campus modules is not compulsory, it is the student's own responsibility to obtain any information provided in class that is not included on the learning platform (Insendi) or in other course materials.

The participants are evaluated through a term paper, counting 60% of the total grade and an individual 72-hour home exam counting 40%. The term paper may be written individually or in groups of maximum three participants. We recommend starting the work on the term paper early to supplement classroom learning. The term paper should be 15-20 pages. Both evaluations must be passed to obtain a certificate for the course.

Term paper tutoring differ in each Executive Master of Management program. It will consist of personal tutorials and tutorials given in class. Generally, the students may expect consulting tutorials, not evaluating tutorials. The total hours of tutorials offered is estimated to 2 hours per term paper.

The home exam is included in the degree’s independent work of degree, cf national regulation on requirements for master’s degree, equivalent to 6 ECTS credits per program. For the Executive Master of Management degree, the independent work of degree represents the sum of term papers from the programs taken.

In all BI Executive courses and programs, there is a mutual requirement  for the student and the course responsible regarding the involvement of the student's experience in the planning and implementation of courses, modules and programmes. This means that the student has the right and duty to get involved with their own knowledge and practice relevance, through the active sharing of their relevant experience and knowledge.

Software tools
Software defined under the section "Teaching and learning activities".
Additional information

The course was first developed by Terje Gaustad with course start in 2022 and has been further developed by Guro Sanden who took over responsibility for the course in 2023.


Bachelor degree, corresponding to 180 credits from an accredited university, university college or similar educational institution. The applicant must be at least 25 years of age and at least four years of work experience. For applicants who have already completed a master’s degree, three years of work experience are required.


Deviations in teaching and exams may occur if external conditions or unforeseen events call for this. 

Exam categoryWeightInvigilationDurationGroupingComment exam
Exam category:
Form of assessment:
Written submission
Exam code:
MAN 51901
Grading scale:
Grading rules:
Internal and external examiner
Examination when next scheduled course
60No1 Semester(s)Group/Individual ( 1 - 3)Term paper, counts 60% of the final grade
Exam category:
Form of assessment:
Written submission
Exam code:
MAN 51902
Grading scale:
Grading rules:
Internal and external examiner
Examination when next scheduled course
40No72 Hour(s)Individual 72 hours home exam, counts 40% of the final grade.
Exam category:Submission
Form of assessment:Written submission
Grouping (size):Group/Individual (1-3)
Duration:1 Semester(s)
Comment:Term paper, counts 60% of the final grade
Exam code:MAN 51901
Grading scale:ECTS
Resit:Examination when next scheduled course
Exam category:Submission
Form of assessment:Written submission
Grouping (size):Individual
Duration:72 Hour(s)
Comment:72 hours home exam, counts 40% of the final grade.
Exam code:MAN 51902
Grading scale:ECTS
Resit:Examination when next scheduled course
Type of Assessment: 
Ordinary examination
All exams must be passed to get a grade in this course.
Total weight: 
Student workload
75 Hour(s)
Prepare for teaching
75 Hour(s)
Student's own work with learning resources
250 Hour(s)
Self-study, term paper, exam
Sum workload: 

A course of 1 ECTS credit corresponds to a workload of 26-30 hours. Therefore a course of 15 ECTS credit corresponds to a workload of at least 400 hours.