Narratives for change



Stories create reality. For better or worse this is a true statement. This has been known for some time by a branch of psychotherapy called narrative therapy. Many clients have ‘problem saturated’ narratives that create a focus on all the things that are wrong in their lives. This can lead to depression and a loss of hope and energy.

In business it is the same process. The story organisations tell themselves about themselves tend to become their reality. A form of consultation called appreciative enquiry¬†operates on the principle of finding new stories to tell that will inspire creativity, energy and hope. Its important at this point to make it clear that stories are not complete fantasy but the very real narratives that all humans use to orientate themselves in relation to themselves and others. Where the term story is helpful is that it is never fixed. It can be told in a different way. It can take a different angle. This doesn’t even mean making something up. The most helpful stories that people and business can tell are based on real events that are already happening. Its just that they have not been noticed.

In Dreamworks offices in California there was an enterprising person who one day realised he could get into the roof space of the building. He set up an alternative office in this little space, with chairs, a bar, lights and furnishings. Eventually this was noticed and although managers were not pleased at first they eventually started having executive meetings in this little hideaway. A new story led to new behaviours.

Once more successful stories can be told they can be generalised into practices that could be applied across a business or any relationship. This process can be supplemented by work on communication skills and relationship building. However in my experience the story has to change before anything else will.