Using A Good Story To Teach Valuable Lessons

A Short Story With Massive Insight: Teaching Valuable Lessons

Stone Soup is a classic tale that has been re-told in many ways. The following is one version captured on YouTube:

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The story can be summarized as follows:

Two bedraggled, starving travelers arrive at a village and set about knocking on doors to ask for food. The responses are varied but equally unsuccessful. Some of their knocks on doors simply go unanswered. Other residents answer the door but ignore their requests for food. Some reply abruptly that they have no food and a few explain that they cannot help because they themselves have no food. Eventually, the two travelers decide to ask to borrow a pot so that they can make their own famous soup. They are lent a pot and set about making their magic stone soup.

The villagers become intrigued and gather around to watch the two travelers making their special soup from boiling water and a stone. The two travelers then start interacting with the crowd by stating that "a carrot would make their soup much better." A child hands them a small carrot which they add. They then indicate that a potato would make their broth even more special and a man gives them a potato. Soon, all of the villagers are competing to contribute whatever little they have to add to this magic broth, which is growing in size and aroma. Eventually, this amazing broth is shared by the two travelers with the entire village. As the travelers leave, they remind the villagers of the secret recipe "bring what you've got, put it in the pot, every bit counts, from the largest to the least, and together we can celebrate a stone soup feast."

3 Great Lessons From A Simple Story

1. The Power Of Curiosity In Connecting

Many of us have experienced the sense of disconnection that lockdown measures to contain COVID-19 have brought. It is worthwhile reminding ourselves that we can exercise choice over the degree of connectivity that we have with those around us and consequently our degree of influence. The continuum of connectivity is as follows: avoiding, ignoring, transacting, interacting, and inspiring.

The two travelers were avoided (villagers not even opening their doors), ignored (their requests for help were ignored), transacted with (villagers simply saying "no" to their request for food), and interacted with (some villagers explained that they did not have enough food for themselves and therefore were not in a position to help). However, the two travelers persevered and set about borrowing a pot and arousing the villagers' curiosity. This enabled them to connect and in the end inspire the villagers to contribute in any way they could to the "magical" pot of soup that all could share.

We all want to and need to connect, but we fail to arouse the curiosity required for people to entertain what we have to offer.

Lesson: Learn to arouse curiosity, so that you gain the opportunity to take people with you through the continuum of connectivity. This is especially important in designing eLearning courses.

2. Intangible Assets Make A Difference

The two travelers had no tangible assets. However, they managed to borrow a pot and inspire the villagers to contribute to their pot on the basis that it was a communal effort which they would all share in. The intangible asset they used was their ability to arouse the curiosity of the villagers and then to inspire them to add whatever they had to this magical blend.

Lesson: Intangible assets set great achievements apart. Leadership is about inspiring people to infuse their character and talent into the organizational blend of character and talent that will set the performance of that organization apart. Start creating an inventory of the intangible assets that you and your organization have, these will potentially outweigh your tangible assets in the potential to add value.

3. Inspire People To Want To Be Included And Their Enthusiasm To Infuse What They Have To Offer Will Lead To A Rich Blend

The two travelers did not have a special stone soup recipe. The recipe was to create an idea that inspired villagers to contribute whatever they had to offer to the communal blend. Enthusiasm is infectious (even more so than COVID!).

Lesson: Don't demand what you want. Arouse curiosity in your idea and invite people to bring what they have. Enthusiasm and the unique blend that emerges from what each person has to offer will surprise you.


Inspiring others to infuse their character and talent with the blend of character and talent of those around them is a leadership capability that promotes inclusiveness and healthy regard for differences. This is an intangible asset that will consistently deliver superior performance if you arouse curiosity and take people with you through the continuum of connectivity.