Narrative Inspection: How To Scratch The Surface

by Mar 28, 2021Leadership, Method, Narrative, Organizations

“Let’s tell our story”.

“What’s our story?”.

“Our CEO tells a great story”.

The company story is not enough.

What matters is the company narrative.

Let’s admit it. We think of business storytelling as a sales and marketing thing. Most people understand it as the wrapper that makes an organization or a business idea appealing. This is a limited view that lures executive leaders.

In that case, the conversation about the story is only focused on things like the website, the sales deck, the visual identity. These are important, but not enough.

Only evaluating an organization through the messages that it sends outside is like doing a home inspection just by looking at the facade. Although the real estate market is hot right now and some buyers skip the inspection, it’s pretty risky.

The company narrative includes a much more comprehensive set of considerations, both internal and external, both individual and collective.

Your narrative is everywhere. So, inspect it everywhere.

Here are the four areas that I comb when I do a diagnostic. It would be best if you inspected them too:

People’s hearts and minds

It starts with you and your colleagues at an individual and internal level. Inevitably, the company has a personal signification for each of you. A narrative is always subjective, of course. As a member of the organization, ask yourself, for instance, how excited you are about what the company wants to achieve? Why is your own personal calling tied to the organization’s purpose? Be honest. Ask people around.

The tangible reality

Then comes the objective part. The company narrative is visible in all its material forms: marketing collateral, products, tangible assets, etc. This is an area that we like since it is easily observable and measurable. Have you communicated a clear and compelling narrative? Is it clear and easy to consume? Also, do people walk the talk? How is your narrative a filter to make better decisions?

The collective mind of the organization

Your organization is a living entity, a network of humans. The narrative is a system made of values, norms, and elements of a common language. It is the “way we do things around here”. Yes, you could say that it is part of the culture. Does your team share the same narrative? If not, there will be tensions between people and teams. How passionate and aligned are you about the opportunity that your organization wants to go after?

The eye of your community and society

You don’t control your narrative. You can only influence it. In your community, prospects, customers, recruits, partners, investors, institutions, etc., have their say on what your organization represents. You are the new caretaker of society. And there has never been a more important time than now to reexamine your role. Ask yourself – Do we make other people excited about the opportunity that we want to go after? Is our narrative recognized outside? How do we connect it to our external social context? Why do we matter now?

Dare to scratch the surface.

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