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Behind the scenes at Zahmoo: A week in the life of Shawn Callahan

This is the first in a series of posts about the people at Zahmoo.

Shawn Callahan is a founding Director of Anecdote, the company that created Zahmoo. Anecdote is a whole business devoted to the idea of storytelling and its power to help businesses understand themselves and the get their messages out into the world.

He has clients all over the world so when I asked him about his week, his answer involved a lot of travelling and phone conferencing. Read below and see for yourself!


At the moment I’m working with a global pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Germany to plan its strategy conference to be held in Sri Lanka. On Monday I had a phone meeting with the leader of the company’s Asia Pacific operations to do some planning for the conference.

People always have different reactions when you tell them you work in storytelling. Often they assume, as this client did at first, that you are going to tell them a fairy tale with a message, when really what we do is help other people to tell their stories. I’m a facilitator who understands storytelling rather than a professional storyteller myself; that said, I love to tell business stories.


Tuesday was a big day. I flew into Sydney first thing in the morning to meet with another client about helping its IT department communicate its strategy to the rest of the company. The strategy document they had was long and unappealing to a general reader. The Anecdote team and I worked with them to set them on the useful track to translating their vision into a narrative people will understand more readily.

While in Sydney I took the opportunity to catch up with another client, the Gartner Group, about a roadshow they are planning on doing in August to help Chief Information Officers (CIOs) tell stories better in order to communicate with staff.

In the afternoon, I met with our printer about another project Anecdote is working on: Storycards which is a new method of collecting and presenting storytelling techniques, pairing each idea with complementary artwork.


Back in Melbourne, I met with a client who has some pretty serious issues with public perception. Talking with their knowledge management group, they had gotten caught up in focusing on how to avoid failing. I asked them instead how they were going to win. At first they had trouble answering the question but I think we got there in the end.

I spent the afternoon working on an idea to run a workshop on insight and storytelling in Singapore next month. I’ll present the workshop along with two other people: Gary Klein, whose book Blink presents his research on human insight; and knowledge management professional Patrick Lambe.


Thursday morning I spent collecting stories from a big five consulting firm, getting the perspectives and knowledge of everyone from junior consultants to senior managers. These sorts of activities are extremely powerful for improving corporate culture as they give staff at all levels a solid understanding of where they fit in the company and a big picture view of the context they work in.

I had some timeout on Thursday having lunch with a friend I’ve known since I was six months old. It was a nice reprieve from the pace of the week.


I was out talking to people and making sales calls all day.

Upcoming behind the scenes posts will feature Mark Schenk and Kevin Bishop. Who else would you like to hear from?

August 16th, 2011 by Sarah Jansen
Filed in: News
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Zahmoo is a story bank for collecting and sharing your family and business stories.