July, 2016 | Published by Anecdote - Putting Stories to Work.
Greetings from the team at Anecdote and welcome to the July edition of Anecdotally. This month, we’d like to tell you about the role stories can play in data analysis, how a moral basis makes an argument more persuasive, upcoming events where you can catch us, and how leaders are the channel for communication strategy. We’d also like to remind those of you who don’t yet have a copy of Shawn’s new book Putting Stories to Work that you can buy one (paperback or e-book) on Amazon, or you can order the special hardcover edition from our website — Shawn is happy to sign your hardcover on request.
When it comes to communicating strategy, leaders are the channel
About 10 years ago, we started working with organisations to convert their strategies into strategy stories. It was clear right from the start that creating a compelling story was only one of the conditions for success. The other non-negotiable was that leaders had to have the skills and confidence to tell their version of the strategy story confidently and authentically, to different audiences and in different contexts.
This might sound obvious, but in fact it challenged the norm at most organisations. That’s because what usually happened was that once a strategy was developed, the internal communications team — not the company’s leaders — were given the task of communicating the strategy to the rest of the organisation. This was a practice we had to work hard to overturn, but the results were well worth the effort.
I remember an early success back at the start of the 1990s. I was helping some councillors see the need for a tree-planting program to provide nature corridors across their shire. Before they saw the results of our geographic systems analysis (what we called computerised mapping before Google Maps), the councillors had told themselves the story of how, over the years, they’d invested in planting trees and that’s why their towns had such leafy surrounds. They felt they’d done more than enough. So when we unfurled maps showing tiny and mostly unconnected stands of mature trees and a vast expanse of paddock, they were more than surprised. After the initial shock and some resistance, they agreed to fund the tree-planting project.
Cognitive psychologist Gary Klein has said that ‚Äėinsight is when you unexpectedly come to a better story’. These councillors had just had an insight, one that we helped them to have.
In 2015, a quartet of researchers from universities in the United States and Spain conducted a series of experiments to understand the moral basis of attitudes. There had already been a lot of research confirming that people put a great deal of stock in the moral component of their own attitudes — that if people believed that their attitudes were underpinned by strong morals, there was a much greater likelihood that their actions would conform to those attitudes. But the 2015 study took it a step further.
Scientists wanted to test the idea that morals are so valued that even the perception of them, as opposed to a person’s actual morals, is enough to really strengthen the consistency between a stated moral and behaviour. Furthermore, they wanted to find out if moral strength might also, as they suspected, make an attitude more resistant to any pressure to change it.