Business Strategy as Narrative: Why Are Stories So Powerful?

Organisational Strategy. One of the most set of two powerful words known to man; well at least in the modern business lexicon. According to Amazon there are over 7,000 books under the general search for ‘business management strategy’.

Typically, a popular book in hard-back can sell for between £ 20.00 and £ 40.00. Some of the classic texts are still selling thousands of copies per annum and some are in the realms of the 5th edition this year like Mintzberg’s classic. To be fair it still remains a tour de force.

What about strategic thinking as an educational need? Take a look at the fees from Harvard in 2016:

Class of 2016
Tuition $58,875
Health Fees $3,358
Program Fees $7,360
Room/Utilities $11,544
Board/Etc $13,963
Total $95,100

As you would anticipate the Harvard web-space has some excellent and very persuasive data demonstrating the various career routes that their students take; as well as the typical salary rates over the next 5-years. You won’t be too surprised that the most popular route is ‘consultancy’ with some 23% taking that route, and with a starting salary of $ 135,000.

I think you’d agree that this makes for a powerful narrative or story. Their ‘offer’ is that you ‘invest’ some $95k in your own self-development.. and then when you leave in your consultancy role you are earning $135k. Happy days!

narrative
This new book is one that I can’t wait to buy. Ask my wife and she will tell you that my office at home is over-flowing with such books. But this one…this one is different. Isn’t it? Surely? The truth is that it does strikes me as interesting read.. as it looks to analyse the ways by which a powerful narrative, or story, is made all the more compelling with the right numbers (or what we might call data).

This is not the only role for a decent strategy of course. But a good strategy should take you on a journey from where we are as a business, or as an organisation, to the ‘End Game’- where we want to be. Of course, the End Game is a powerful and compelling Vision that has been shaped, debated, argued-over and developed. If you are a public sector organisation then one would anticipate that participatory methods have been expertly used to co-create the End Game.

A good strategy uses a range of powerful images and ideas such as:-

  • icons that give rise to meaning in the readership
  • graphics that take complexity and then simplify things- for easy movement in and between the strategic stages/sections
  • maps that ground the narrative
  • case studies that demonstrate the ways by which innovation from external strategic scanning re(search) will be adopted
  • data, data, and data
  • personal stories from different segments of your customer base (or service clients) that help convince other users that your strategy meets their needs, expectations and hopes and also that it addresses some of the their genuine fears

One of the reasons stories are so powerful is beautifully expressed in this excellent read by Geoff Mead. It is not pushing it too far to say that this book has changed my life in many positive, and unexpected ways! It is a ‘must read’ to be honest. You can find some of the work that he does here at

http://www.narrativeleadership.org

leadership

I have a four-year old son. He absolutely loves stories. Part of the ‘deal’ is that if he             co-operates with me brushing his teeth…then…we have more time for stories. Currently each evening the ‘deal’ is that we have 2 read stories (that he borrows from our local Caerphilly library), and then 1 more story that we have to co-create. Fab fun!

So stories are deeply powerful, cultural ways to share meaning. They stimulate or evoke emotions. They engage and persuade us when they are working.. and they move us in various ways. To live out our values in the world, I guess?

Strategy really ought to do just the same!

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