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Part 1 of 2: What’s Your Story? How Narrative Drives Outcomes

What Drives Success?

Individually and organizationally, we are the stories we tell ourselves we are. This, more than anything else, drives individual and organizational success. While ideas, innovation and execution are important, they can only be as powerful and positive as the narrative that drives the thinking and behaviors of the collective consciousness of a company’s workforce. Yes, this definitely and especially includes the executive leadership team.

Here’s how this works:

A Culture Unto Itself
Every individual and organization is a kind of culture unto itself. All cultures are driven by the myths they believe. These myths are stories or narratives that they tell themselves about themselves—whether they are consciously aware of it or not. The power of a myth in driving thoughts and behaviors is not dependent on whether the story is true. True or not, these myths are the foundational contexts that drive what is (or is not) considered, how it will be considered, what will be decided and what behaviors will take place.

Changing these underlying narratives in order to create better thinking and outcomes isn’t as easy as some might think. More often than not, organizations don’t see how some of their stories are preventing them from thinking smarter and creating better outcomes. Whether acknowledged or invisible, our narratives serve as powerful collective constraints and governors for ideas, considerations, and even communication.

So why is this important? Because individually and collectively, all of our outcomes are the result of our narratives. If the leader(s) of an organization want(s) to change outcomes, they have to begin by figuring out which narratives are getting in the way, and which narratives are actually serving them in regard to helping create intended outcomes. Good leaders know that the right narrative is critical to fostering the kind of organizational development that will positively impact the bottom line.

Read Part II for examples of how narrative can work for, or against an organization (Apple, and Kodak).

It All Starts With the Narrative

  • Our narrative drives what we consider and how we will consider it.
  • Our consideration drives what we will think about and how we will think about it. 
  • Our thinking will drive our decisions.
  • Our decisions will drive our behavior.
  • Our behavior determines our outcomes.

This is an unalterable, undeniable sequence of events because it’s the way the mind works.  It is also the way the collective mind works. In my book, The Power of Losing Control, I dedicate an entire chapter to the power of personal myth, and how it affects the way we define ourselves and our circumstances. In that chapter I write that, “Everyone needs a cage in which to feel free.” The cage is a metaphor for our contextual understanding of ourselves. In the collective mind of an organization, the cage of our narrative becomes the barriers and governors that guide and inform how its people think about what they think about. Understanding this is critical to unlocking healthy organizational development.

Learn More About Narrative and Organization Development

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