Our Simple Stories

A simple story.001.png

Human’s consistently use stories to manage the information we are exposed to. Without noticing it we develop simple stories made up of a hero, beginning, middle and end. We connect these stages  through simple cause and effect.

We look for patterns from the past that you project into the future; if you can’t find enough data, you make it up; and then you believe that you know what’s going to happen next in your story. We also carefully select the information that we accept so as to confirm these stories.

We do all of this involuntarily hundreds of times a day. 

When you realise that you’re carrying a simple story about a person or a group ask yourself:

‘How is this person/group a hero in their story, what motivates them and what is their goal?’

Consider switching the roles and see how that changes the story.

Stories are also powerful for individuals as well. Either from school or other significant persons in our lives we are told a certain narrative about ourselves. The problem is, this is a simple story that some else has created.  We go through he world unknowingly selecting information that cements this story in our brain. 

These stories are almost always incomplete or simply not true.

 In the book Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps: How to Thrive in Complexity, Jennifer Garvey Berger suggest managing our own simple stories this way: 

To disrupt the simple stories you tell, you can develop the habit of carrying multiple stories about the events in your life. The best way I’ve found to do that is to notice your story and then create another one. And then another. And another. When you know that if this initiative wins it will be disastrous, see if you can create another story that turns out differently. When you hear yourself saying, “I’ve seen this before and I know just how it goes,” remind yourself that if the situation is truly complex, you haven’t seen something quite like it before and you have no idea where it goes. Think of these as the opportunities.

The goal isn’t to avoid telling stories. That is our biology. The goal isn’t even to avoid telling simple stories. I think that’s too hard as well. The point is to notice and reflect over your simple stories, remember they’re simple, believe in them less, and aim to multiply the options you are considering.