Using Narrative To Tell The Story Of A Business
Apr 24th, 2016
It used to be that a few elite controlled the stories of our lives. You go back a few hundred years, it was the sha-man, the priest and the elder. During the last 50 years it was the politician and the CEO and our parents. But now, because of technology, there are 1,001 platforms for telling our story — and less of a sense of “official” truth or knowledge.
And it used to be that only a handful of Hollywood's elite screenwriters and a handful of best-selling novelists were in charge of the fictional stories we tell as well. But now, with better educational tools and a better understanding of how stories work (Dramatica), there is greater opportunity for everyone with a voice to be heard.
The Neuroscience of Storytelling
The neuroscience of storytelling shows that we’re hard-wired for narrative. We used to all tell stories, sitting around the fire. These (often cautionary) tales were meant to get us to pay attention, because there was danger everywhere.
Well this sounds familiar...this is precisely how I begin to describe how stories evolved from simple personal campfire tales to complex narratives that can be transmitted anywhere. In short, when the storyteller is present they can fill in any "holes" in their narrative; when they're not--as is the case in 99% of all business transactions today--they need to make sure they tell complete stories.
The Novelty of a New Story Mind
There’s a deep pathology in the way we’ve built the communication architecture of our culture. I see a big, big shift underway, where we’re learning a new way of actually structuring our stories.
Where we meet people is at a place of desire instead of a place of inadequacy — that something’s broken, and they need to fix it.
This sounds like switching the narrative's Growth for the Main Character from Stop to Start. Perhaps we used to tell more Stop stories in marketing a business, and now the inclination is towards more Start stories. There really isn't a value difference between the two; one isn't better than the other. It may be novelty that is compelling the latter to seem more attractive.
We can’t give people a prefabricated ending, because it will come off as fake, trite, and insincere. Our audience will call “bullshit” on us.
This requires that we learn to tell stories about paradox.
This humanization of business the article speaks of is more about discovering the Story Mind at play--the psychology of the narrative a business seeks. By paradox Margolis refers again to complete stories, those stories that structure themselves around th four perspectives present in the Story Mind: the Objective Story, Main Character, Influence Character, and the Relationship Story Throughlines.
Understanding Resolve and Growth
Going from an old story to a new story is a non-linear process, which challenges many aspects of our western think- ing. But we don’t pay enough attention to that space in the middle, which is the space of great discomfort. In shamanic terms, it’s called a “liminal state”.
It’s where you’re in between identities. You haven’t quite gotten to the promised land of a new sense of self, but you’re far enough along to know that your old story, the old sense of self, is no longer viable. If you stay in the old story, you’re going to become extinct — or you’re just going to be miserable.
This is great. Nothing really to add here except that it is a great way to think of a Main Character in a story, especially when they meet that moment of crisis. Once the Main Character can see the difference between what they thought was their problem and what truly is their problem, they have to make a choice: stay with the old or move with the new. The only difference here between what we understand of narrative and what the article refers to is the context.
With Dramatica we think of the Resolve of the Main Character and whether he or she adopts the new way of doing things (a Changed Resolve) or continue to do things the old way (a Steadfast Resolve). Neither choice is better than the other, but this isn't to say it somehow contradicts the ideas presented by Margolis.
Though a Main Character may have a Steadfast Resolve, they still have grown to a new place compared to the old. They have grown into their resolve.
Dramatica in the Real World
The way that we approach building a new story is quite simple, actually. We start by asking, What’s the future you’re trying to create? Once you have a sense of that new vision and future, you have to look at all the pieces you have and begin reorganizing them into a coherent new form. You have to use your past to legitimize your future. We actually have to reassemble the new story.
And this refers to the Big Question we ask corporations and businesses looking to use Dramatica to further their own story. What narrative do you want to approach?
If you want to be a storyteller, learn the language of narrative. When you speak the language, you have a seat at the table. You actually belong in that world.
Sounds like a knowledge of the most comprehensive and powerful theory narrative around--Dramatica--might be a valuable tool for storytellers to have in their toolkit.