Yuval Noah Harari is the incredible author behind Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. One of the most fascinating insights that he explains in his work is his discussion of stories. Harari suggests that what makes homo-sapiens as powerful as they are in the world is their ability to tell and understand stories. Money, religion, economics and politics are all the product of stories. In many ways the world is ruled by a variety of stories that everyone believes in.
For example, with very few exceptions, everyone in the world believes in the story of money. Certain pieces of paper, coins and even data on a computer has become a concept that we are all familiar with. We believe the story of money as a valuable commodity. When a brand establishes itself as the leader in its field, the story it tells about itself makes it appear more valuable than all the other brands… even if they are actually better products from a quality perspective.
Religions bring together millions and millions of people who all believe in a particular story of why we are here on this planet and how we must act. The fact that they are stories doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t true. Rather it means that the reason we believe them is that we accept the stories and when we do, we give power to them. Furthermore, the evolution of such stories enables people to gather into huge groups and organise a way of working together which can be extraordinarily powerful.
What is there for us to learn from this? Well, from a business perspective, the reality is that the value of who we are, what we do and what we offer is often dependent on the stories that we tell about these things. It’s really important to take some time and ask yourself what story are you telling to others about yourself? Sometimes, we get wrapped up in stories where we are the victims of our worlds. We repeat the same narratives over and over positioning ourselves as being treated unfairly by life. Other times, we work hard to convince others of our value by telling stories where we come across as better than others but these stories can come across as deliberate and not very effective.
Instead, what would it be like if we became really clear over exactly who we are and how we wanted to be perceived and then we asked what kind of stories would this person share with others? Would they gossip? Would they brag? Would they share stories that made others look and feel good? Getting clarity on this is extremely valuable.
We can also do the same for our businesses. Understanding how you want people to think of your company or offerings will let you get an idea as to what kind of stories to share about what you do. By learning about the key ideas you want your customers or potential customers to have in their mind about you, you gain a unique opportunity to solidify the best possible impression in their mind through the stories you select and tell.
So, to sum up, consider the stories you are telling others about you, what you do and what you offer. Understand how this is positioning you. Get clear over how you want to be positioned. Finally, craft stories that do this effectively in the mind of yourself and others.