S2E4 – Method and Madness in Storytelling

Show Notes

 In this episode, Mon-Chaio and Andy delve into the essential role of storytelling in implementing change and leading an organization. They share examples of effective storytelling and reference theories ranging from Aristotle to environmental sciences. While facts are important, emotional connection, or pathos, is key to persuasive storytelling. They also discuss the dimensions of logos (the logical argument) and ethos (personal character) in storytelling, and reflect on the balance between truth and fiction in narrative creation. The well-crafted story not only motivates change but can improve mental health and support a positive work culture.



S2E4 – Storytelling

Andrew Parker: All right, we’re back Mon Chiao for another episode. Are you ready?

Mon-Chaio: I am ready, Andy.

Andrew Parker: Good, good. So in this episode, to give everyone a bit of a heads up, give them a bit of a story to lead them through this. What we’re going to be doing is we’re going to talk a bit about storytelling and how storytelling is useful and important in leading an organization.

So we’re going to give some examples of storytelling. We’re going to talk through how that storytelling was effective. Why it was effective. And we’ll be referencing lots of literature throughout this episode. I’ve seen things in our notes from Aristotle through to environmental sciences., tactics show up all over the place as we talk but we’ll, we’ll try to sum it up into things that you can actually do from this.

Mon-Chaio: And a pitch. If you would like a longer dissertation or to learn more about storytelling, you can always contact us. We’re happy to do what would you call it?


Andrew Parker: Mentorship, coaching, discussion.

Mon-Chaio: And get into more depth about how, you, yourself can build your storytelling skill and more specific things that are in context for the challenges that you face. But, back to, back to this episode.

Andrew Parker: I will give a caveat up front that I don’t believe that I am the greatest storyteller. So I was really excited to do this episode and research this stuff. And so don’t, don’t use that as a thing to take away from the offer that Mon- Chaio just gave. I think we do have some interesting stuff to talk about because there’s so much that we got that was not included, that’s not going to be included in this episode.

But. I really liked this because it gave me so much more of a foundation of how to think about storytelling. I still feel like I need a bit of practice. I, I tell stories. I can go off the cuff. I’ve done that kind of stuff. But I’m yeah, I’m a, a hesitant storyteller sometimes.

Mon-Chaio: As we started researching this, and I kind of have a head start on you, Andy, I think it was maybe, what now, seven or eight years ago, that I really decided storytelling was a thing that was important. Obviously you do a little bit of research in your own time and you learn sort of at your own pace.

So I’ve been thinking about this and reading and learning about this now for, like I said, seven or eight years. And even in this deep dive that we did, I was like, oh, I didn’t know about this. Oh, there’s another way to think about storytelling? So it’s impossible to be comprehensive.

Andrew Parker: To kick us off, I was thinking of telling a story..

And what I’m gonna do is I’m going to tell this story, and then maybe we can use some of the research that we found to pull it apart and say, why was this story important? Why was it effective? What kinds of impacts do we think it might have?

Mon-Chaio: hmm.

Andrew Parker: So here’s the story. A few years ago, a company I was working at, we had been acquired. By a much larger company. And then that company got acquired by another much larger company. Now, when that second acquisition happened, the team had been left pretty much to its own devices.

The original company had been sitting there. We’d been left to our own. But we could tell that the writing was on the wall. There was very obviously the new management, the new company. Wanted to remove the old silos that had existed and mix things up and make it so that we’re much more cohesive as we are this new company.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: Now, when that happened, we kind of thought, well, what do we do? Everyone was depressed. The development team some of the managers, we were all sitting there like, oh man, this is over. This is just the end. What are we going to do? And the CTO had an idea. He’s like, no, the first thing you need to do is you need to control the story.

Because if you let everyone come up with their own story, it’s not going to go very well. Most people have a bias towards coming up with tragedies as their storytelling mechanism.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: And so he said, we need to come up with a different way of doing this. And we need to tell a different story. So one part of the story is reaching closure.

So what we did was we held a wake for the company that we had been working for.

Mon-Chaio: The old company as

Andrew Parker: The old company that, as it was, that is the one that we had all been hired into that had been bought twice. We held a wake. So we set the particular day, we got everyone together, and we told stories.

And then we also talked about what comes next. What are we going to do? What is an uplifting thing that will let us contain our identity and propagate it? And so we told the story of this company, how we had all enjoyed working there, that it was a great collaborative atmosphere, what we loved about it.

And then we got the story from the CTO. Of a way of thinking about what’s going to happen next, which is that we’re going to go out and we’re going to help , other parts of the company, learn our ways of working. We already knew by this point that our ways of working were considered very innovative and desirable.

And so we were going to go and say, you know, what, what is our purpose now? Our purpose is to garden a new approach and a new culture. And we are the seeds to go out and do that. So we changed from having this tragedy to having a much more uplifting story of what was going to happen next. And so out of that wake, everyone came out of it saying, you know what?

We’re not doing this because we’ve been told to do this. We’re doing this because we’ve decided to do this.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: We don’t see within this company That the place that we had been working was the main focus anymore. So we’re going to go and do something else that is actually better for the place that we now work. And that is the story. That is , the approach that we took and the story that we told ourselves and, and what we did. .

Mon-Chaio: Let’s talk about why you all decided to do a wake. And a wake is obviously a process, but within the wake there’s the telling of stories portion also within that, right? Both the look back as well as the story forward. But I’m curious, you all were a software company. And sometimes when I talk about storytelling in mentorship and whatnot, I get a lot of pushback. And the pushback I get is Stories are about fictionalization. They’re about emotional response. That is not what we need here. We should just let the facts stand for themselves.

I’ll give you an example of where this is the case. Many companies that I was working at, the promo process is you create a promo document for somebody and you list out what they did. And a big part of it was include the facts only. We don’t want to contaminate the understanding of it with a bunch of storytelling. So why wouldn’t have this have worked in that case, Andy? Why couldn’t you have just told the facts and let them stand as they were? The facts being, we are innovative. They are not. They need to be more innovative. The old company is gone. The new company is here. Let’s get with it. Feels like it would have been a lot shorter. Feels like it would have been a lot quicker. So, why the story? Instead, why the wake?

Andrew Parker: You’re right. It would have been much shorter to simply say, You know what? We’ve been bought. There’s new bosses. We have some good practices. Let’s teach others those good practices. But the thing is, is the point of a story isn’t actually the logic.

Mon-Chaio: huh.

Andrew Parker: The point of the story is an emotional connection.

Now, there are other points to stories, but in this case, the point of, the large point of this story was an emotional connection. So it had, it had to do two things for the group.

Mon-Chaio: huh.

Andrew Parker: had to create closure because there was a trauma that was occurring. There was a loss of something valued, and so it needed to have an acknowledgement of that to bring in everyone. Then it had to create an emotional reaction. To, that can be let go. That thing that we had, it’s okay to let it go. And then once you have that emotional connection, you need to now provide that new narrative, that believable narrative. So let’s start going into a little bit of the theory of things here.

So that emotional connection. In, in rhetoric, or in Aristotle’s way of approaching things, is that you have pathos. That , the audience will have an emotional connection. It’s an important component in any storytelling, or any rhetorical argument. So any kind of like, argument to convince people of something.

To your point of, why couldn’t you just have the logic? Well, to have an argument that is compelling, you have to have more than logic. So, that, that’s one aspect of it. But then once you have that, now you need to start providing a new way of interpreting the world, a new way of making meaning.

And that’s what stories are for. They provide frameworks to make meaning of the world around you. And in this case, we had this world around us that we didn’t know how to make meaning about yet, and that was creating an emotional reaction. We used this opportunity as a way of Coming up with another meaning for that environment. that’s, that’s logical. That’s actually completely logical because it needs to fit together. It has to have a logical structure because if it’s illogical, if it’s unconnected, disconnected, incoherent, well, people can’t do what’s called suspension of disbelief. So you still need, even a completely logical setup, a suspension of disbelief for those aspects that are kind of like unclear or maybe counter to what is currently believed. You, you need that, that suspension. And so that’s what we were doing is we were creating a new way of making meaning of the world around us.

Mon-Chaio: Yeah, absolutely. And I think this gets to the point of that emotional connection versus the logic, right? You mentioned you have to create an emotional connection, but it has to be an emotional connection to that logic with the ability to suspend disbelief. So it has to be true enough and we’ll get into why it doesn’t have to be all true, but it has to be true enough for people to be able to understand what you’re trying to convey. Now, I have a, I have a definition from a paper here about narratives that I would like to read real quick and, and we can discuss it. It says, narratives follow a particular structure that describes the cause and effect relationships between events that take place over a particular time period that impact certain characters.

Andrew Parker: And that’s what we see in this story.

Mon-Chaio: It absolutely is. And so, whether you’re doing informational, or, sorry. I would say that the story that you mentioned might be more cultural communication. I guess there was some new information contained within that story. But for the most part, everyone, it sounds like, already knew the information. They knew that they were being acquired. They knew that the old team was shutting down. And they knew that the new team needed these practices from the old team.

Andrew Parker: All of that existed out in the world as facts.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: What did not exist in the world as facts is that narrative thread that gave it meaning.

Mon-Chaio: Yep. And two things I think about that. One is I want to bring this back to our culture episode. Remember the two types of communication, information communication and cultural communication, right? Information communication is about projecting new facts. Cultural communication is about creating culture, creating a community through. Stories often. And so in this case, I think there was a lot of cultural communication there to build this new narrative and to build a narrative thread that connects the facts. But that’s not the only time that you want to use storytelling in business setting because I think storytelling is also really important when you’re doing informational communication, don’t you think Andy?

Andrew Parker: It goes once again back to that whole thing of it creates meaning. Because information just floating around. doesn’t create a framework from which you can use it to think about it. Each person might come up with their own framework, but everyone’s now going to have a different framework.

They’re not sharing that framework and using it to come together a bit more cohesively in how they’re interpreting the information.

Mon-Chaio: And this goes back into our last, a little bit into our last episode about shared mental models. How do you create a shared framework for everyone to come together and think about? There actually is science, Andy, on, even on the factual side, why storytelling and narratives may be a better way to communicate information.

I’ll read you a couple of quotes. One says, Being easily digestible by the human brain, stories help bridging between our logos and pathos. When an audience becomes emotionally receptive to the facts, chances increase that they will respond and act on that knowledge. So what this is saying is that emotional triggering or emotional quote unquote manipulation is actually important because it actually makes the facts much more receptive. The second thing that I’ll mention in terms of a quote is there’s a what they call a privileged status in human cognition for narratives. And narratives seem to offer, they say, intrinsic benefits to each of the four main steps of processing information. Motivation and interest, allocating cognitive resources, elaboration, and transfer into long term memory. So the human brain is built in a way where narratives allow us to build memory and act on facts more than just spewing a bunch of facts out into the world. And in your story, Andy, we can see that. The facts were already spewed out into the world. But the narrative thread, as you mentioned, that tied it all together made it actually actionable for that group.

Andrew Parker: Mm hmm. It made it actionable. And it created a better outcome for the individuals. So a bit of the research that I got into, I went into, I went down the rabbit hole of an area of, of research called narrative psychology.

Mon-Chaio: Interesting.

and narrative

Andrew Parker: psychology has, has been studying how did, how did different ways that people tell these stories impact in a lot of the ones I found is, was impact their mental health.

And in that case, you could say that not only were we, not only were we working to give people an effective way to look at the world around them and react in a cohesive manner, we created a shared language. But also it, it transformed the story from one of this downward trajectory, which in the narrative psychology research was called a contamination narrative,

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: and it turned it into a story going upward, like a happy ending, and that’s called a redemption narrative.

Mon-Chaio: Mm

Andrew Parker: And what they’ve found is that people who construct narratives of their lives that are primarily redemption narratives have better mental health, measurably better mental health outcomes. And to take that even a little bit further, they found that through working with people to construct those narratives, that improves their mental health.

And they, they tell those narratives before their mental health improves. So there’s even, they can’t say exactly causation, but it’s pretty strong evidence that like temporally the narrative changes and then the mental health changes.

Mon-Chaio: Interesting. And what would you say, I mean, I, it may be extremely clear, but how would you say that applies beyond mental health in the work environment, especially with a technical organization?

Andrew Parker: Well, I think, I think there’s one thing, which is that we talk about that people like happiness of employees. That’s often a big thing about, are people actually happy here? Do you have attrition?

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: But also, do you have engagement? People who are like on a downward spiral are probably disengaging.

They’re probably not happy. And so these redemption narratives can help people engage, can help them find their way of acting in the, in the company. And in fact, the other aspect of these redemption narratives that the research has found is that the narratives include agency. So when a narrative includes elements of agency and redemption, that’s really when it starts working.

Mon-Chaio: I think this is important, Andy, so I would actually like to ask you to define agency a little bit more because I think it has a lot of meanings. I don’t want people to take away the wrong conclusion here.

Andrew Parker: Agency is, and I’ll just quote one of the papers here, is concerned with the individual’s autonomy, achievement, mastery, and ability to influence the course of his or her life. It is therefore strongly connected to the individual’s sense of meaning and purpose.

A really simple way of thinking about it is agency is your belief that you can impact things in your life.

Mon-Chaio: Hmm.

Andrew Parker: People who have a sense of agency, they’ll use words about things being under their control. That they took an action because it was their decision to take an action. People without a sense of agency, they use words Such as, it was done to me, I, I didn’t have a choice and those kinds of things.

And we’ve talked a lot, Mon Chaio, you talk a lot about triple A teams. Triple A teams need to have that sense of agency. And so what a way of thinking about this, a way of interpreting this research, this narrative psychology research is that. AAA teams, you need to, in some ways, you need to cultivate narratives of agency and redemption.

Mon-Chaio: That makes a lot of sense in my mind. And I think it is yet another way of showing how the power of stories and changing the story that you tell both other people and yourself can change drastically how a group moves forward. How it I keep calling it actions on the facts. And interestingly, Andy, I’ll ask you this question.

When you were telling your redemption story in your wake, would you call that a redemption story? The seeding the garden?

Andrew Parker: Oh, yes, it was absolutely that.

Mon-Chaio: So, a question I have for you then, as you think back to it, Would you say that the redemption story that was told that day was 100 percent completely truthful?

Andrew Parker: Hmm. Uh, was it completely truthful? I would say that it was not a lie.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: now we’re getting into the shades of gray on the logos of stories.

Mon-Chaio: hmm.

Andrew Parker: it wasn’t a lie. It was in some ways aspirational in some of its truth. It also didn’t sugarcoat it. It didn’t say like everyone’s going to accept us and be happy and it’ll be rabbits and butterflies and sunshine. It gave a believable story, one in which we could say, you know what, we have been doing this, we are already looked upon as very skilled at these things, so yes, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to do this, and we can support each other, was an aspect of the story.

Mon-Chaio: hmm.

Andrew Parker: We’re all still going to be here, we’re going to be in different teams, but in some ways that actually makes us more capable at doing this.

So, is that true? Maybe. But it’s not obviously false. And it was something that we could all believe.

Mon-Chaio: and that, I love that. Is it true? Maybe, but it’s not obviously false. I love the way you put that. I obviously have a reason for asking and taking our conversation down this path. There are these characteristics of narratives, and there’s many, there’s many different ways to think about it.

But one way to think about it Are these four characteristics around dramatization, emotionalization, personalization, and fictionalization. And really I wanna focus on that fictionalization portion of it, which is why I asked you, is it all completely true? The fact of the matter is stories and narratives don’t have to be completely true. Ethically, they should be as true as possible. And remember, you’re always telling a story in order to get some sort of result. You’re trying to convince people of something. You’re trying to share what happened in the past. You’re trying to evoke a certain emotional response. There’s many different reasons why you tell a story. If ethically your goal is right, or is, is right the right word? If ethically your goal is ethical,

Andrew Parker: Just?

Mon-Chaio: just, whatever the case is, The argument is that fictionalization can actually help convey that message better. Because what it can do is it can provide more easily digestible understanding of unimportant contextual pieces that may muddy the waters. An easy way to see this in scientific research today. Without getting into the politics is there’s a lot of scientific research around things like, let’s call it climate change, for example. But there’s also a lot of noise around, well, what about this tiny study here? Or what about that tiny study there?

Or this thing wasn’t quite reproducible in this certain environment? It doesn’t change. The overall truthfulness of the message. But if you’re trying to convince an audience of the existence of climate change, fictionalizing those parts of it, filling in gaps that may not be well known with easily understandable chunks, actually makes the truth come across much more easily in the human brain.

Andrew Parker: Yes. And it actually allows you, quite often, to point out that some of these are glossing over unknowns, or glossing over hardships. But here’s a way of thinking about them.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: It’s not counterfactual. It’s gap filling. And I want to read a quote from one of the, one of the articles that you found, Mon Chaio.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: it’s talking about the different goals that you might have in storytelling and narratives. And it says, both goals, persuasion versus comprehension, could be ethical in different circumstances. Personal autonomy is often championed. But persuasion may be appropriate in contexts where social benefits are large enough to outweigh individual choice.

So any narrative created needs to be carefully aligned with the appropriate goal for the situation.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm

Andrew Parker: also ties into something that comes up in narrative psychology. They talk about master narratives. Now, master narratives are these culture wide General themes or patterns of stories that come about. So, for instance, I was talking about redemption and contamination and agency narratives.

Those narratives are actually culturally very American. They don’t necessarily exist in other national cultures. So, if someone’s listening to us from Germany, they probably have a different national narrative that would work better. for helping people out. The American Redemption narrative has all sorts of connotations and baggage that go along with it, but it would fit an American audience.

So that starts actually bringing up an entire thing of when you’re in a, in a multicultural organization that has people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Narratives? This is where it gets really complicated and we’re not going to go into it. So I’m going to just say that that’s there and now leave it.

Mon-Chaio: if you’d like to learn more, contact us through our

Andrew Parker: Yeah. Or comment on our podcast and, and we’d be happy to have that discussion.

= So these master narratives are inherently ethical, meaning that they are inherently about the ethics of the culture that they’re part of. The Redemption narrative, an ethical thing in the American culture, is one of picking yourself up, going from being down and out to being back on your feet and continuing.

Mon-Chaio: Mm

Andrew Parker: And that fits with a strong ethical tradition of agency, which is why quite often agency fits with these, as well as this autonomy and what it means to live the good life, which is to be on your own two feet. And so the, the narrative that you put together. Inherently is going to have an ethical aspect to it of what is the good life.

We should, we should define a little bit of ethics. Ethics very broadly is the, the idea of answering the question, what is good? What is a good life lived? What is a good society? What is a good relationship? What is a good employer? The narrative gives you information about what that is, but the narrative that you tell inside your company is going to be constrained by the master narratives that exist out in society.

So, if in your company if the society is one of a redemption narrative, and that’s what’s ethical, and you try using the master narrative in your company of you, I’m trying to think of one that would be completely different and counter, you do as you are told until you’ve reached a certain level. And then you get to tell others what to do. That could be a narrative of what is the good life, that that kind of progression, it would have something about progression through those, those levels. That narrative is probably going to struggle in a group where their master narrative is one of redemption.

Mon-Chaio: And I imagine that’s true within a company, too. If your company culture has a certain master narrative behind it, given the culture, telling a narrative which is counter to that on a specific org or a specific team probably will also make it struggle in the same way, wouldn’t you say?

Andrew Parker: Yeah, I think, I think we can extrapolate that. I don’t think that’s a risky fictionalization to add.

Mon-Chaio: Right. It may not be true, but it certainly is not demonstrably false. So hopefully I think we’ve dug into a bunch of the research enough so that I hope our listeners understand that narratives are really important in business settings, and also in technical organization settings, given that they’re a business. And hopefully we’ve given some research around why that is, but how do they action that now?

We’ve already said that we’re not going to sit here and tell them. The seven different ways to tell a better narrative. So what can they do now with their newfound joy, given the stories that we’ve told, and want to incorporate narratives into their work? What can we help them with?

Andrew Parker: I would say one of the first ones is, don’t shy away from including emotional content.

I know that’s a don’t, not a do, but maybe I can easily formulate it as a do.

Mon-Chaio: Right.

Andrew Parker: Do include emotional content.

Mon-Chaio: Pathos. Right?

Andrew Parker: Yes.

Mon-Chaio: Yeah, absolutely. And we won’t repeat it here, you can read the research for yourself and we’ve, we’ve quoted some of it, but emotional connection is very, very important for people to be receptive to the facts. So the better you can connect them emotionally, the better they’ll be receptive to the facts.

Andrew Parker: Another one, Mon Chaio, I think that we can leave people with is the idea of Logos.

Mon-Chaio: Mm

Andrew Parker: And, in fact, I’m going to go through all of the three pillars of rhetoric, because I think all three are useful to leave people with. So the idea of Logos is the, that’s the factual kind of logical argument that you’re laying out.

This is the thing of saying, these are the things in your world. We can all agree that they exist. Here’s how they fit together. And that, that’s Logos. Now in storytelling as opposed to like legal arguments, in storytelling, the really important thing is to give people a framework by which to, they, they can interpret those facts.

And that when things are not like Untrue. You don’t want to do untruth. But when they’re not completely supported, people have a willingness to suspend their disbelief.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: It’s not so jarring that they can’t accept it. And one of the things that we haven’t mentioned yet, but is really important, is the third pillar of rhetoric, which is ethos.

And ethos is your own personal character. The story that you can tell. actually becomes connected to who you are and how you’re perceived. So if you are a junior developer and you’re trying to stand up in front of an entire development team and tell the story of how everyone needs to build this organization and build this team and drive towards delivering this product, you most likely won’t have the ethos to pull that off.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm. Right.

Andrew Parker: But if you’re the CTO, part of your job is to build that ethos so that you can tell these kinds of stories.

Mon-Chaio: I like it. I’ll chime in with a quote from a Harvard Business Review. They mentioned, your goal in every communication is to influence your target audience, either change their attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and behavior. Information alone rarely changes any of these. Research confirms that well designed stories are the most effective vehicle for exerting influence. And I’ll use that quote to say, it’s actually really important to figure out in your own mind what you’re trying to communicate. What is the story that you’re trying to tell? If you’re trying to tell eight different stories and trying to mash, mishmash it together into one, you’re going to have a really challenging time.

So, focus on the story you’re going to tell. In fact, there’s many ways to do that. One way is this thing called message box. And what they say is don’t expect your first draft to be your final draft. Keep making iterations with it. And by the time at the end of the process, you’re going to have just a few points.

And that is the story you want to convey. And then you can start to build up then the narrative around that. Once you know exactly what it is you’re trying to tell. Another important thing is to actually understand your audience. In your example, Andy, with the wake, it felt like the audience was, you could tell one story to that audience and it would work.

But in many larger organizations, you have a ton of different audiences. You have an audience who may be junior developers, who are looking to get promoted, right? That’s an audience. You have senior developers who maybe are still looking to get promoted, but You know, it’s less important and they know their promotion cycle is much slower and they’re looking more to develop influence. You’re looking for managers who want to know that the promotion process is fair and to reduce their workload while making sure that they can fairly promote people. So, if you’re telling a story about a new promotion process, it’s important to understand whether that same story and whether that same narrative will hit each of those groups equally.

And it might be better for you to break up your story instead of telling one single story to quote unquote save time because, again, to get back to the beginning, the facts are all the same, so why do I need to split it up? No, it’s not about the facts, right? It’s that pathos part of it.

Andrew Parker: Yeah, it’s about that emotional connection. I will give a word of warning on the splitting up the story. When you do that, those stories still need to be mutually comprehensible. Because what you don’t want is people comparing stories and feeling like they’re being lied to. So,

Mon-Chaio: coherent. And again, touching back on that fictionalization portion, fictionalization is a very, very important aspect of narratives, but that doesn’t mean to lie, right? Absolutely not. It means when you figure out the core of your story, you use fictionalization to fill in the gaps, fill in the blanks, to help people understand that core better. If the core of your story is three different things that are untrue when they’re connected back together, then that’s not what you’re looking at.

Andrew Parker: Yeah. We want narratives, not false narratives.

Mon-Chaio: That’s right. That’s right. So I think those, those are some of the tactics that I would give. I have two interesting sort of side tangents, but I think are also important in the realm of storytelling and technical organizations.

According to this one researcher, they say there are mainly two different options for stakeholder involvement. Stakeholders become either consultants or collaborators to the review team. As collaborators, the stakeholders are engaged to a larger extent than as consultants. When we think about building narratives, I think it’s really important that we think about Collaboratively building narratives. I think this is especially important when we talk about strategy development, which is a lot of times when narrative when building narratives comes in, how do I talk about what the strategy of the organization is?

Especially if I change the strategy of the organization, how do I know what the right new one is? And I’ve done this in the past. My first go at redoing a strategy was almost 10 years ago now, and I thought, look, what I’m going to do is I’m going to sit down with my product partner and we’re going to create the strategy and then we’re going to present it and tell people what the new strategy is.

That’s our job, right? It says it in our job description. We are responsible for strategy and we’re going to do this. And it went pretty poorly. There were a lot of stakeholders and although we had chatted with them, we hadn’t really collaborated with them. In order to create narratives. Going back to the collaboration, we listened to them, but we didn’t reconcile the perspectives with them.

We reconciled them with ourselves.

Andrew Parker: Mmm.

Mon-Chaio: them. And so the the narrative and strategy that was created didn’t resonate with them, right? It didn’t take their own stories into account. They couldn’t see their stories fitting into the narrative that we had constructed. So, collaborating with your stakeholders, especially around strategy building to create a narrative, I think is really important. And when you collaboratively create narratives and stories, it also helps for the more viral spread of your narrative. . The last thing I’ll mention around narratives. Is how it fits into branding and how important branding is So i’ll just read you this quote from one of the papers that I was looking at It says storytelling has a profound role in attaching meaning to brands people are often fascinated to brands rather than products As brands give them the meaning in the form of stories they tell to themselves and others And i’ve absolutely seen that in the workplace.

I’ll my example is I once worked at a startup who was going through, there were a few rounds before IPO, but they were fairly mature. They weren’t a seed round startup. And there was a team that had been there since the beginning. And often times, teams that have been there since the beginning have a lot of heroic work, right?

Startups have these situations where they need all hands on deck, or a bunch of hours to be put in, or there was a big outage that caused them to lose their biggest customer, but people heroically brought it back. And so it was this team of old timers that. stayed in this one team and they had done a bunch of work at the early days of the startup. The fact of the matter is they weren’t really doing that much work now. And if you were to compare them to other teams They would probably stack rank lower, but the stories that were being told and the perception of that old school team in the company was still that they were the best team.

And so it was their brand that still lived on. In the terminology of this paper, it was their brand rather than their product production that was influencing how people viewed them. And so, I would say to folks, technical leaders, it is really important to build brands also of your organization.

Because they can survive the normal ups and downs of just fact based product delivery.

Andrew Parker: Those are great. I really liked the idea of the brand one as well, because you can even connect that back to the story I was telling that the brand that the team, the company that I had worked at. Our internal brand in this new company was so strong that we knew that we could start going out and continue to propagate that brand.

And that was part of the story that we told. And in fact, to your co creation point, that, that story, that narrative that was put together of we can go out and do this, that was actually co created as well. It wasn’t that the CTO just suddenly stood up at this wake. And said, all right, this is what we’re doing.

It was actually kind of a, a little bit of a theme and talking about it in different discussions. It was kind of growing. How do we put these facts together? How do we interpret this? Where, where is our place in this world? It was a narrative that grew over a few weeks or months as managers, as we were talking, as we were talking inside their teams.

And, and so that co creation, it made it, it wasn’t just this grand reveal. It was a kind of summation of what we all already knew.

Mon-Chaio: All right. I think we’ve reached a reasonable point for this episode. Hopefully we’ve given you some foundation to understand why it’s important. Some concrete tactics that you can bring back and use in making sure that you utilize the power of storytelling in your organization. Anything else to add, Andy?

Andrew Parker: I would just request that people on whatever podcasting platform they use on this episode, why not comment and add some of the stories that you’ve used, that the narratives that you found compelling, or when narratives had just fallen flat would, we’d love some, some of those stories, some of that engagement to help us get the podcast out there to hear from you and to, to build this idea of narratives and what makes a better narrative. Or if you want to contact us directly, we’re at hosts at thettlpodcast. com. And we’d love to hear from you. So till next time. Be kind and stay curious.


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