I’ve always been addicted to story and story-telling in one way or another. I ended up teaching literature for many years and completed a PhD in English a decade a go. In that time I was busy examining, deconstructing, and theorising narrative and meaning-making, and I can still busk a post-structuralist debate (“does experience shape language, or does language shape experience?”). When I changed careers, I found myself immediately drawn to the marketing and communications side of business – still enticed over questions of how we make meaning.
I have more than my fair share of pleb tastes too. I’m the go-to person if you want to know the latest TV box set to gorge on (FYI: Fargo). I load up my kindle on a regular basis, whipping my way through titles like Christmas at Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop (yep) or Dawn French’s According to Yes. I got positively misty eyed at Star Wars – The Force Awakens.
To unwind, I go for the predictable stuff of chick-lit (horrible term, but I prefer it to ‘romance’) or mysteries. They’re comforting and familiar. But too much and you can end up with that post Christmas holiday feeling – overstuffed, a bit numb, and not really tasting that chocolate mint truffle any more. It’s then that I crave something more challenging, a narrative that opens up new thinking and fosters creativity, not mere comfort for comfort’s sake. So beside my bed are pen-inked copies of Thinking Fast and Slow and David and Goliath. Wolf Hall also loiters there accusingly, half-read.
Shared experience, through story, is how we connect with each other
Ultimately, story-telling, shared experience, is at the root of our ability to connect and empathise with others. Neuroscience shows that stories bring our brains together. Character-driven stories apparently cause oxytocin synthesis in the brain, and researchers have looked at how you can ‘hack’ the oxytocin system to encourage people to engage in co-operative behaviours.
I recently worked with colleagues to design a workshop that brought together people from different divisions and geographical locations in our organisation. Read the rest of this entry »
In the UK, the decisions around the government’s comprehensive spending review have been announced. While the scale of those cuts is perhaps not as deep as anticipated in some areas, the downstream impact on those of us who work in the public sector is as yet unknown. We know change will be afoot, it will likely affect us or those we work with directly, and all this is set against a backdrop of increasingly vexing international news of global conflict and crises.
While we know the old adage that the only thing certain in life is uncertainty itself, changes of this nature – which feel so completely out of our control – trigger anxiety and fear in even the most resilient among us.
Pondering this, I’ve gone back to remind myself of the few positive truths about our negative feelings regarding uncertainty.