Markus Gull

Let's build a ship!

When I am hired as a consultant, it is often because companies are changing. Or rather: they have to change, because this happens voluntarily in the rarest of cases, which is quite in keeping with our human nature. Usually, some concrete problem is the trigger and this problem is preferably located in one of the following fields of activity - sometimes in several:

  1. Marketing & advertising don't really work for us anymore.
  2. How do we find enough qualified employees, preferably the best?
  3. We need to showcase our corporate responsibility activities.
  4. What does innovation mean for us and our brand?

In each of these cases, sooner or later the question of "Who are we really?" is at stake, as well as the management of change, which should be as painless as possible for all concerned. How can this succeed?

The best way is not to change anything. But by building a ship.

Don't change anything, please!

Change is terrible for us humans because it implies insecurity, which we absolutely do not like. We always prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar, even if it harms us. Everyone who can't get out of a toxic relationship knows this, or anyone who has been unhappily stuck in a job they hate for years. Or both together.

When we are supposed to change something, everything in us resists. For us, change also means subconsciously: it was wrong before. That's not true, of course. It was right before, it worked, but now it doesn't work any more. Now we need something ... hm? No, we don't need something different, but something new.

New, not different!

Something new? We'd much rather listen. NEW - one of the eternally effective advertising magic words. New interests us. Because we can't be that anxious that we wouldn't be a bit more curious, we humans. (And yet we are firmly convinced that we are the crown of creation ...).

Because it goes so well with spring:

A) "Change your diet and exercise habits and you're guaranteed to reach your dream weight!" - Certainly not!

B) "Do you already know this brand new way to your dream weight?" * - Tell me more!

If you want to change something, it is best not to change anything, but to make a new offer. For that, everyone can be completely painless. But that alone is not enough.

Because as greedy as the new makes us, at the same time the question immediately arises: "Why?" And I'll say it right now, before it's too late: "Put away the fact-gun, stranger!" First of all, there are no facts about the future anyway, and secondly, no matter how accurately you aim your fact-gun, you'll always miss. Guaranteed!

Facts never hit the heart!

Where does the longing burn?

Besides, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is still right. Because one can only see well with the heart, but especially because: "If you want to build a ship, don't gather men together to procure wood, assign tasks and divide up the work, but teach the men to long for the wide, endless sea.

What story is and what leadership can do through story is described by Antoine's wisdom better than anything else I have ever read. Story awakens desire and enlivens values. With stories we north our inner compass, stories make us understand the instruction manual for life. With story we create context - explain to us what is happening now and why.

Stories are lighthouses of longing. Only when longing burns does something move within us. Only then do we move. Then we move towards it.

Without a why, we have no reason to live. Stories awaken the why.

That is the power of story. Evolution has programmed that into us. Thank you!

By the way: The common story of the shipbuilder and his people is not about the ship. Nor is it about the endless expanse of the sea. It is the story of freedom. That is the one central value on which everything ignites. "If we manage to build the ship, we will have saved our freedom. If we do not succeed, we will perish unfree!"

Can you build this simple story model around the one vital value of your brand, around the one burning desire of your project? Yes? Then you are almost inexorably on the right track. Then you can lead into the future. Then you are more than a storyteller, you are at the heart of the matter. Then you are a story sharer. Otherwise you are not.

Story sharers are few and far between, there are never enough of them! Leaders who can convey meaning respectfully. There is a little more on the topic here.

Communication as core business.

The good news is that everyone has the tools to share stories. But only a few know how to use them, which is partly due to the storytelling nonsense that is currently being squeezed out of all the buzzword holes.

For example, I am amazed how little even successful politicians know how to do this, especially since communication is a big part of the core business of politics and hardly anywhere else is there so much talk about "narratives", the "narrative" and "communicating our story better". People, please don't keep throwing your warm tea at us! - Maybe it's because politics these days has as much to do with shaping the world as chewing gum has to do with eating it? Looks the same, tastes quite good for a while, but has zero nutritional value.

Is it only me who can think of Robert Kennedy's paraphrase of G. B. Shaw: "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"

We are getting off topic, but only a little.

Because as a story insider, you are always a leader of some kind. Communication is your core business, story is your best tool. You want to win people over for something. For new ways of communication. For the purchase of a product. For a job. For the right innovation that is not only cool shit, but also the turbocharger for the story of your brand. For ...

You always want to build a ship, and preferably a new one!

This is not a question of company size, but a question of attitude and an indispensable necessity for successful communication. Regardless of whether it's a global corporation, an SME or an EPU - every person, every brand, every company has a story and stands for something, even if it's nothing. But then you are left with only one issue, one way or another: the price.

To all those who say: "You can't do that with my brand!" I would like to recommend what my grandmother, old Story Dudette, once shouted undauntedly to the stormy wind on board the Peqoud, while Captain Ahab beat the beat with his wooden leg: "No Story. No Glory."

*) P.S.: On this occasion, a little trick of the trade: Basically, a question has a stronger effect as a headline than a statement - because curiosity ...

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