Suppose you haven’t seen it or need to refresh your memory. Groundhog day is a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray as Phil Connors. He plays the role of a weatherman sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual emergence of the meteorological rodent that predicts every February 2nd whether there will be an early spring or six more weeks of winter. But Connors gets stuck in a time loop and wakes up every morning on February 2nd.
That’s until… I won’t spoil the surprise, of course.
All innovators seek to get you out of a loop, to make you enter a new one. Innovation is the transition from an old way to do something to a new way. If you are stuck in Groundhog Day, the goal of innovation is to get you out of it, only to get you stuck in the next day.
How does this transition work?
Innovators disrupt existing narratives and build new ones.
A narrative tells us how to think about something. It seeks to create stability. It includes a set of guidelines and provides knowledge about what to do in many different circumstances. The more we enact a narrative, the more it becomes the norm. Our behaviors become so routine that it’s easy to repeat them over and over. It’s like being on “auto-pilot mode,” and that’s extremely important when we need to think fast.
Let’s play a quick game?
What’s the first thing you do before you start your car to drive it? I’ll give you a hint – It’s something you should always do.
Yes, you fasten your seatbelt. That’s the norm. By now, most drivers (hopefully) are aligned with this narrative. Why? Because it turns us into participants of our own safety. Today, we put safety at the top of our pyramid of needs regarding cars.
But it wasn’t always the case. For example, before the innovators at Volvo created the 3-point seatbelt and the new norm to use it all the time, most drivers didn’t consider safety as a priority. Instead, they were “stuck in Groundhog day.”
Let’s also apply this to your business.
A strategic narrative creates a set of guidelines in people’s minds. It tells us what to do. It acts as heuristics when we have to think fast. It takes your company from confused and scattered to clear and focused. It tells people in your market what to believe and what decisions to make.
A strategic narrative can norm many vital things for your company, such as:
- The way you collaborate,
- The way you make decisions,
- The way you engage with your clients,
- The way you hire people
- The way you do things “around here”, aka your culture.
- The way you design your products or services.
- And so on.
That’s until… someone figures out a new narrative.