In my work with entrepreneurs and companies who want to get better developing entrepreneurs, I see patterns emerging.
The startups and companies who have a mechanism for finding, owning and sharing their stories, build strong cultures.
I believe there are parallels between what I have witnessed in organisations and research into how stories make individuals stronger.
Almost a decade ago, researchers from Emory University published the findings of a study about the impact of knowing family history on children. Up until then, the effect of intergenerational stories on children’s wellbeing had not been measured.
The Emory researchers set out to do that, using what they called, the ‘Do You Know Scale’ – a list of twenty questions about family history.
Unsurprisingly, they discovered that;
‘teens who knew more stories about their extended family showed ‘higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.’
Following the publication of a New York Times article that mentioned the study, the researchers were inundated with requests for the twenty questions.
Many readers assumed they would make their children resilient by simply teaching them the answers to the questions.
But as Marshall P Duke, one of the researchers pointed out:
‘Correlation is not causation. Simply knowing the answers to questions will not produce the good outcomes. It is not what is known that is the critical factor, but how the children came to know it. The researchers believe the process of making time to sit with each other and share stories is the causational factor.’
In her book Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger, Barbara Wingard and Jane Lester build a case that through stories, we are able to manage grief, overcome failure, and get encouraged.
Camp Coorong, in 1994, was an attempt at using stories in which all Aboriginal families in South Australia who had experienced a death in custody gathered together. The document that came from this gathering was called ‘Reclaiming Our Stories, Reclaiming Our Lives’ (1995).
Here is an extract from it:
Aboriginal people have always had their own special ways of healing. This includes ways of healing the pain from loss and injustice. These healing ways have been disrespected by non-Aboriginal people, and Aboriginal people have been discouraged from using them. But the healing ways have survived and are playing an important part in Aboriginal life today. Talking together more about the healing ways is one path to taking them back, to making them stronger. (p.15)
Stories are a relatable way to communicate as they allow listeners to make their own interpretations based on their own experiences and feelings.
By enabling a listener to draw their own conclusions, we establish a rapport that can be used to help grow our businesses.
We remember stories far more than facts and figures.
Movies with a fascinating stories will be watched over and over again.
Books with great storylines are likely to sell more.
Businesses that tell a story that resonates wins customers.
A pitch with a compelling story stands a better chance.
A talk or presentation with a story is likely to be remembered long after it was delivered.
A quote that has stuck with me is from Steve Jobs himself. It is from 1994, when he was CEO of Pixar:
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come…”
The bottom line is we build more resilient families, companies and communities when we know who we are.
We get stronger together when we prioritise finding, owning and sharing our stories.
What is your story?