Fast Company--January/February 2000--Timm Ringhofer : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

The Nike Story? Just Tell It by Eric Ransdell Fast CompanyJanuary-February 2000 Timm Ringhofer

I have worn Nikes for most of my life. I have heard many stories about child labor and unsafe working conditions for Nike workers, so I usually read any stories involving Nike.

From the title of the article, I assumed that the story was going to be about something that Nike would not want written about with all of the recent publicity. However, this could not be further from the truth. The article described the way Nike introduces its new employees to the history of Nike.

Nike was started by two individuals: Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. Bowerman was Knights coach along with the famous Steve Prefontaine, who was a great middle distant runner at Oregon in the early 1970s. These three individuals tried to make better track equipment and turn track into a professional sport. Prefontaine was killed in an automobile accident, but Knight and Bowerman continued with trying to make better shoes and other track equipment. All of this and more are told to the new employees in a two day workshop by corporate storytellers.

The reasoning behind corporate storytellers is that the stories you tell about your past shape your future. One story is about how Bowerman poured rubber into a waffle iron to make better soles for shoes. However, the idea is not to tell the new employees about the waffle sole, but to tell the employees about the spirit of innovation. The storytellers also take the employees to the place where Prefontaine was killed. Were connecting what were doing today back to Nikes heritage, says Dennis Reeder.

The storytelling sessions started as a one-hour presentation when W-2s were filled out. It is presently at two days with the hope that it will become a five-day session at Nike University.

This idea of storytelling leads me to think about how the older teacher and coaches tell stories about the past in an informal way such as standing in the hall between classes or on a bus to a game. Storytelling is part of every business, but I think that Nike is it in a formal way, which is quite unique.

-- Anonymous, June 14, 2000

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