How To Break From The Past And Innovate

by Strategy

Is investing in a strategic narrative always worth doing?

Everybody in the business community seems to agree that storytelling is an important thing, especially if you are in a leadership position. Almost no-one challenges the return on the investment that shaping a new narrative represents.

I believe that my clients have the right to know. So, I am conducting a research project to explore this question.

At the moment, I am in the phase of the literature review. The more research I am doing on this topic, the more I am finding that we might have been lured with the importance of telling good stories.

We mostly see storytelling as a great way to create an emotional connection and be interesting. That’s important. But that’s only a fraction of the return on investment. There is something more powerful hidden behind the buzzword of “storytelling”, and that’s the power of narrative.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the difference between story and narrative and why it matters for business leaders.

In essence, a story focuses on the past. When the story ends, it’s up to you to draw your own conclusion. A narrative, on the other end, promotes a particular point of view about a story. It is an interpretation of the story or the meta-story if you will. In narrative theory, narratives represent frameworks with which we act and make decisions. Every day, every minute, most of what we do is guided by a narrative, that was previously validated by the stories we heard.

Consider the narrative of Christmas for instance, and how it influences not just Christians in their behaviors, but also many millions of other people. 

Most of us use story and narrative interchangeably because we don’t really understand the difference between those two words. As a result, when it comes time to rally forces, build teams, launch, transform or weather tough economic times, we struggle. In today’s volatile world, the chance of survival of our businesses is impressively low.

As a CEO, when you think not just about the story but about the narrative, you have a significant opportunity to go beyond just being more likeable thanks to your interesting anecdotes. You can shape the way people think and act.

Think narrative, not just story. That’s pretty important when you need to help your organization go through change, raise money, dominate a market, or use the new normal to break from the past and innovate.

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