In the end, what a more innovative, inclusive, sustainable resilient society needs most of all is a good story. Or 35 million of them, told to each other every day in the most inventive, inclusive, instructive, and inspiring ways we can stoop to conjure. For all the sorry state of our media, Canada’s media moment might just be now. The art might be less in trying to engineer new media technologies, but rather in formulating not just for ourselves, but for the world, a new narrative that privileges personal and community growth – a narrative that is utterly disruptive to the status quo. A narrative that, if powerful enough, will find its way onto whatever platforms there are to mobilize it in the public sphere.
The very idea of a “disruptive narrative” is one we owe to Ric Young, who says, “The ability to frame and champion a compelling narrative is central to the work of transformational leadership. Great leaders are first and foremost creators of stories that can galvanize others – stories that can invest distant and challenging goals with meaning and appeal. Recent research in neuroscience has shown how human beings are hard-wired for stories. We have story-patterning brains, both constructing and attending to meaning in narrative form. But even without the brain-mapping confirmation of this, the powerful force of stories is evident throughout cultures and throughout history.
Compelling stories capture our imagination, engage us emotionally, and move us, Narrative logic is not the same as factual logic. There is little room for moral appeal in a business case that builds a rational argument around a valuable proposition. But there is no compelling story – or convincing call to purpose – in a narrative that does not appeal in some way to our moral sensibilities. In fictional stories we are drawn into the challenges faced by the characters. In the stories transformational leaders craft, we are drawn into the challenges we collectively face. As George Akerlof says, “The confidence of a nation, or any large group, tends to revolve around stories… Confidence is not just the emotional state of the individual. It is a view of other people’s confidence, and of other people’s perceptions of other people’s confidence.”
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