We seem to always forget that at the beginning of any organization, there is nothing, but a narrative.
Since the dawn of time, we’ve survived thanks to our ability to believe in common myths. We do this through fictional narratives. When we imagine things collectively, we can cooperate in large numbers, invent new technology and organize for survival.
This concept is explained by Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It shows why narratives are the roots of any human endeavor and why investing in constantly changing the strategic narrative of any organization is vital for its survival, whether it is a government, a religious institution, or a company.
Today, most of us also use the word “narrative” as a fancy synonym for “sales pitch”, the magic story that sells more of our stuff, once the stuff is already built.
Such a story should help the diffusion of innovation because a good pitch is intended to make people want to buy from you.
The problem is that 99% of pitches suck.
We put things in the wrong order: product, then pitch. We build something, then we make up a story. We come up with something new and then we spend a fortune asking “Who wants it?”. Meanwhile, our competitor also built a similar thing and is also yelling at the market. Then, we believe that branding will come to save us, to hide all the holes in our product and our strategy, just like paint covers rotten wood… until things fall apart.
The narrative precedes your company, your strategy, your product, and everything else. It is the foundational idea for why you are in business. It is the expression of its purpose.
What makes your company stronger is not a better pitch.
What makes the difference is if people understand why it should exist from the get-go and if they understand how the narrative can be translated to their daily actions and decisions.
Your product is just the apparatus that enables people to enact this new narrative.
See the opportunity to craft a narrative as the chance to make strategic decisions.
- We will see the fact that our customers are using our product or service as the manifestation of our strategic narrative.
- We will commit to constantly sense if we should continue to enact our existing narrative or if we should change to a new one.
- We will always reframe and revive our strategic narrative before we engage in any major rebranding effort.
- We will do the same before we engage in any major strategy effort because our strategy is just as good as the ability of people to understand it.
- We will make sure that any sales activity starts with the narrative first.