I’ve met many leaders in my time. There were those who were busy trying to keep it all together in the face of complexity. There were those who continually rearranged the deck chairs in the idea that structure would lead to different outcomes. And then there were those with vision and the skill to help others see it. They were new paradigm leaders.
For me, a new paradigm leader is one who works together with other people to find, craft and live a compelling story. They know that a potent story opens the door to a more powerful present. And when people feel more connected and more committed, it creates a burning desire to work together for a more flourishing future.
Just this past week, I was talking to two colleagues based in Slovenia about a conference they are organising in October. Their audience is both interested in quality assurance and made up of IT professionals. They are focusing on the hot topic of the moment – the platform economy.
We talked about how IT and social media have enabled companies and consumers to co-create experiences. Organisations like AirBnB, Uber, Etsy and others help customers choose and create personlalised experiences through laptops, smartphones and apps. This is the new wave of participatory experience.
But they couldn’t do it without a bridge – without the platform that enables organisations and consumers to meet and work together. IT professionals are the enablers — or even midwives — in this equation, creating the medium for customers to talk with suppliers.
And yet, as we all know, being in IT is sometimes like being between a rock and a hard place. As careful as people try to be in creating specs, you can’t plan for what might emerge when people start using something. It always takes longer than you think and balancing risk and results is really challenging. It’s easy to blame the people in the back room, behind the scenes.
So how are storytelling and IT connected?
During our conversation, I had an epiphany: IT people are not only bridge builders, they help the organisational story come to life. They are storytellers. And if we’re very lucky, they are also Story Activists.
The new paradigm leader is a Story Activist, precisely because they know that the stories they pay attention to — the stories they activate — have incremental power. We often say dropping a pebble into the pond can cause ripples. What we neglect to mention is that a ripple over here can cause a tidal wave over there. A story is like that – it can cause a tidal wave.
Right now, quietly – and not so quietly – story is changing the way we do business.
What would happen if more of us knew ourselves to be storytellers and Story Activists? What pebble are you throwing into the pond?