Inspire your stakeholders with the right Narrative

Deepa writes about the need to inspire your stakeholders through great Narrative – with a core of TRUST
Make sure your narrative aligns with reality!
Deepa Prahalad is a strategy consultant and co-author (with Ravi Sawhney) of Predictable Magic: Unleash the Power of Design Strategy to Transform Your Business. Follow her on Twitter at @deepaprahalad.

1) Internal Narrative about purpose

I would place the famous Peter Drucker question, “What is the purpose?”,  and the “moonshots” that companies identify in this category.  These do not have a direct, measurable outcome but a huge impact on creating internal motivation and direction, provided that they are done well (e.g. a Coke within arm’s reach of everyone on the planet, etc.)

True but Jobs did not do that—a distraction.  The commercial projects were fascinating enough!

In the cases of business leaders like Jobs, Elon Musk, etc. the vision that they articulate also adds value because they can attract great people to work with them,

A good narrative at this stage in my view is about intentions (how we are making the world a better place).  It should also give some indication about the means (how we will train/ reward people, expected standards of behavior)  for how the given organization will strive to achieve those objectives.


2) Customer Narrative 
From the consumers point of view, the relationship often works in reverse.  People become interested in your vision and views if they connect emotionally with the product/service after interacting with it.  (This is the transformation that Curt described in earlier posts).  Many brands create this emotional connection at many different price points – but they do have one thing in common:  Successful companies make people feel good about themselves. 

Nice.  But, for example, GE, or, or — I worked there?

In the book I co-authored, Predictable Magic, we used the Hero’s Journey from Joseph Campbell to describe how consumers navigate the marketplace.  The Moment of Truth in this construct happens post-purchase when people actually interact and find that their experience meets or exceeds their expectations based on the narrative that has been presented.


In the best cases, people  are inspired to do more and become evangelists (app developers, Facebook fans, online reviews).  

What makes a narrative compelling is more than the fact that it is novel or has a “worthy” goal.  It has to be backed by systems and processes that make it possible to execute and build trust.  


An analogy would be the fact that in some places democracy is about the right to vote, and on others it spans to include personal freedom and economic opportunity.  The outcome of any real innovation effort is uncertain by definition, so codes of conduct are incredibly important (the role of religion, etc is obvious here).  

Comment from Curt:- 
Interesting example.  I was once in Singapore at an invited conference of folks like here and a Chinese visiting scholar at Harvard said the main advantage of America was our Judaeo Christian background.  That was interesting, why?  He said that no system can wrote down all the laws—most of them have to be part of the culture with no need to be explicit.  

Non-profits create amazing narratives, common purpose, etc, but often often produce incredibly lackluster results.  

True.  The narrative is everything.

We also need to look at what the reality any narrative would create for individuals and society at large.  There are many narratives that are shared, connect emotionally and are backed by systems that are incredibly destructive (ISIS, Nazi Germany).  I think a focus on ethics/ empathy is a necessary criteria as narratives are created (at least a Hippocratic -type Do No Harm condition).   

In my experience, I have found that because of new strategic frameworks and Big Data, companies have gotten a lot better at identifying potential opportunities, but still lag in understand consumer mindset/ emotions and connecting with them.  

When there is a significant gap between the story and the reality, the result is not only a failed innovation but a dissolution of trust.  

Many of the best companies today are going after the same stated goals – sustainability, addressing inequality, etc.  

I see teams all over the world working on the same stuff with no competitive advantage.  

As I remind people during many presentations, people are not waiting anxiously to download mission statements.  They are waiting to see and feel something that taps into their aspirations and inspires them.  Great narratives bring these aspirations closer to the surface. 

I very often use my father CK Prahalad’s tests:

  • Will it change the conversation?
  • Does it show the opportunity?
  • Will it lead to some action?
  • and most importantly – Who will be better off because of this work?   

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