Open a book on business storytelling, and you will be told the tale of the only story you need so you can hook more people to your marketing and sell more stuff.
Open another book, and you will learn that there are indeed ten stories you must master to be a great leader.
Try the third book, and you will read that only seven stories matter. And these stories are almost all different from the ten presented in the previous book.
So, who should you believe?
I’ll spare you the effort and the money. Over the past 15 years, I researched many of those business storytelling books; you can see them on the bookshelf standing behind me on my YouTube videos.
The conclusion? No one knows.
You can’t limit yourself to telling a small and fixed number of stories.
The promise of the only X number of stories you’ll ever need to succeed is a scam.
How would any meaningful movement exist with only one story?
Or, even better: can you imagine telling Bob Dylan that from now on, he should only focus on telling seven stories?
In his fifty-something years’ super prolific career, Dylan wrote more than 600 songs, all telling a different story.
Equally, your business is made of hundreds of stories, and you need all of them to thrive.
I hope you will have many success stories to tell and many struggle stories to share.
However, focus on one narrative.
Here is the subtle yet crucial difference.
Dylan’s songs from the sixties all fueled one and only one narrative.
Crowned “the Voice of a Generation”, Dylan proved that songs with overtly political themes could be commercially successful.
That was the big idea.
Stories connect to form a narrative. Therefore, think of narratives as systems of stories.
Yes, stories and narratives are different concepts. Although, we cut corners in business and use both words as synonyms.
Like Bod Dylan, religious institutions and movements seem to have figured out how to build narratives as systems of many stories. They didn’t limit themselves to the one, seven, or ten magic stories to tell.
For instance, gothic cathedral stained glass windows are one of the most visual illustrations of the concept of narrative as a system of stories. They are also one of the oldest.
Stained glass windows were initially incorporated to convey Bible stories. We used this technic as early as the 7th century in churches and monasteries in Britain. Then it became a primary pictorial form used to illustrate the narrative of the Christian Religion when not everyone in a population could read nor had access to a bible of their own.
So, there is the principle you might want to keep in mind: many stories, one narrative.