This past week, I was reminded of the power of narratives – strategic narratives that is. By their nature, strategic narratives are the type of storytelling that not only introduces one’s vision and strategy (i.e. a known set of plans) to a broader audience but compelling stories with no end-state, for the audience to complete.
The story I was listening to was during a client session that our team was facilitating. In the room were close to a dozen individuals, all experts in their respective fields, they were heading business functions that are critical to the success of this high-growth business. They all knew the history of this innovative organisation (the DNA, as they kept referring to). They could recall the vision of the organisation and when it was launched. They could name the capabilities they rely on and the technical solutions they employ, to build a more sustainable business going forward. The work ahead, one would think, could be drawn in a straight line.
Strategic Narratives, however, are human stories, which often defy the imposition of artificial ‘straight lines’. They are a reflection of how human we are, with surprising twists and turns and new characters which impact our lives, challenges to surmount and learnings to bring back and share with those around us. Even shorter, more focused narratives, seem to defy the imposition of linear thought, rules of thumb or edicts of how ‘things should remain’…Such narratives are as rich as our lives are, they embody strands that evolve in parallel and they leave the listener with the desire to complete and add to the story – to make a contribution.
And so, in the midst of this session, we posed the question – ‘How did you truly get here?’. They were puzzled at first – after all, the ‘official’ version of the past was something they were all well versed in, it was a story that was repeated many times in the business. But as we began to explore what other paths may have brought the business to where it is today, new strands of insight opened up and the story of their past became even more compelling. In fact, three credible stories emerged, each rich with learnings.
As we then turned to craft a narrative for the future, how the business grows from here – these learnings were quickly applied. The multiple strands of the past gave rise to more than one path, in fact, multiple strands of their future. They were equally compelling, with new and innovative approaches. They recognised the power of optionality. They felt empowered to act, to accelerate and bring some of their less-recognized skills and learnings into what they execute next.
Such is the power of strategic narratives, they draw others in to make our roadmap into the future more compelling, often more innovative and more inclusive, where others can play a positive role.
Have a good weekend everyone!