Change the Story, Change the Culture

I have been paying a lot of attention to the importance of stories in changing school culture.  While many people are focused on the idea of “data” changing the culture, the reality is that practice doesn’t change because of numbers. It can inform our practice, but it is unlikely it will inspire us to do something different.  When someone feels something, they are more likely to change themselves.

People will point to the idea that “feeling something” because of stories is just “fluff,” when in reality, there is brain science behind the idea. From, “Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling“:

Many business people have already discovered the power of storytelling in a practical sense – they have observed how compelling a well-constructed narrative can be. But recent scientific work is putting a much finer point on just how stories change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

As social creatures, we depend on others for our survival and happiness. A decade ago, my lab discovered that a neurochemical called oxytocin is a key “it’s safe to approach others” signal in the brain. Oxytocin is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others. It does this by enhancing the sense of empathy, our ability to experience others’ emotions. Empathy is important for social creatures because it allows us to understand how others are likely to react to a situation, including those with whom we work.

The other idea that I have been focusing on with stories is the idea that in an “information dense” world, what makes an idea stick out? Daniel Pink shares,

Stories are easier to remember because stories are how we remember. When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.

If the thoughts bring you to emotion, they are more likely to stick out in your memory.

Stories are the fuel for innovation.  If you want to help people embrace a new narrative, the best way is to create that new narrative together. What is the story of your school or organization? Not just the story of the past, but what is the story you will write together in the future?

This quote resonates:

Figure out the story of where you have been and where you need to go. When people see themselves as part of the narrative, they are more likely to become the heroes of that story.

Source: George Couros