Why a Narrative Might Be One of the Most Powerful Tools We Have in the 21st Century

Why a Narrative Might Be One of the Most Powerful Tools We Have in the 21st Century
Photo by Darinka Kievskaya / Unsplash
To get better faster at whatever it is you do, you’ve got to be supported by a broad array of complementary people and resources from which you can pull what you need.
― Hagel, Brown, and Davison, The Power of Pull

The Sublime Power of a Narrative to Pull

The notion that a narrative can be a mechanism for "pulling" us forward in today's modern world is relatively new and has not been widely recognized, acknowledged, or realized.

However, from where I stand as the host of what has become the Forward Thinking Workplaces narrative, I have witnessed an incredible gathering of people, insight, and wisdom in a way that I haven't seen brought together in quite the same way elsewhere.

But first, a little more context on what we mean by narrative.

You might be thinking that a narrative is a story. It isn't, exactly. A story has a beginning, middle, and end, whereas a narrative is open-ended.

A narrative is made up of a collection of stories, or in the case of Forward Thinking Workplaces, interviews and conversations.

The idea that narrative has the power to lead us forward was first articulated in 2011 by John Hagel in, "Narratives have an extraordinary power of pull." (See The Pull of Narrative.)

And in their book, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, we learn from the authors the importance and necessity of discovering and creating new formulas for success in a world that is transforming around us by the moment.

That means that what we learned and already knew is becoming less and less useful and valuable by the moment too.

In such a world, information now flows more like water, and we must learn how to tap into its stream and pull what we need when we need it.

A narrative does exactly that by creating a vortex of people, knowledge, and resources that we can tap into.

What defines the Forward Thinking Workplaces narrative?

The Forward Thinking Workplaces narrative has evolved over the past 12 years.

It all began in 2009  when I was increasingly frustrated by all the improvement and change methodologies that really didn't seem to change anything or last for most people and organizations.

I started interviewing experts and asked the same opening question, "What is your best improvement strategy or tactic that has worked well for you?" It was called 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success.

Amazingly, most people didn't focus on what they were most widely known for; instead, it was always something more profound and softer. Things like leadership, trust, reflection, understanding the real problems, asking better questions, etc.

So in 2016, I leveraged what I had learned from the 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success experience and came up with a new set of questions that became the foundation for the Forward Thinking Workplaces narrative.

The foundational questions we use in an ongoing conversation uniquely define the Forward Thinking Workplaces narrative.

For example, we ask six foundational critical questions in every interview or conversation to ensure the narrative is focused on today and the future while being relevant to everyone.

An ideal state question:

  • How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?

A top of mind for most executives question:

  • What does it take to get an employee's full attention and best performance?

A recurring and top-of-mind question to address a problem everyone is talking about and not solving:

  • Why is engagement so low and not improving question but in a new way: What do people really lack and long for at work?

How can we start asking ourselves and each other better questions:

I discovered that asking myself new questions was so powerful it was important to discover new and more powerful questions we can ask ourselves and each other.

  • What is the most important question leaders can ask employees?
  • What is the most important question employees can ask leaders?
  • What is the most important question we can ask ourselves?

Join Our Next Monthly Webinar

In our next regularly scheduled monthly webinar, we will explore how to take greater advantage of the Forward Thinking Workplaces narrative.

A global narrative with pioneering business and thought leaders uncovering exciting new insights and perspectives to help you be a Forward Thinking leader and workplace of tomorrow — today!

When: Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Time: 8 am PT / 11 am ET / 5 pm CET

I hope to see you there!

To your forward-thinking life & great success!

— Bill

Bill Fox, Founder, Forward Thinking Workplaces
At a time when we’ve all become obsessed with the power of storytelling, I’ve become increasingly focused on the missed opportunity to harness the much greater power of narratives.
— John Hagel, Global Speaker, Futurist