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 »