Leading Change

In The Secret Language of Leadership, Stephen Denning says that facts don’t convince anyone.  This explains why all the “facts” about environmental crisis and global warming don’t seem to be motivating people to take and demand action.  A Stanford study showed that given evidence, people interpret the facts to confirm their bias.  Emory University MRI scans showed the pleasure center in the brain lights up when people interpret information to support their position.

So, this blog and others like it may just reinforce climate change naysayers’ belief that they are right.

Denning says the key to leading an endeavor, especially a political one, is to first figure out the story the audience is currently living.  Then, figure out why people don’t see the change ideas as positively as we do.  Within what story do they find themselves cornered?  What artificial walls have they constructed around their current existence so that they don’t see the same future we do?  What imaginary constraints are hampering them from imagining something different?  What  limitations are hobbling their vision?  Which of their most heartfelt dreams are currently unfulfilled?  Stories are ideally suited to capture how a human actor, endowed with consciousness and motivated by intention, enacts desires and beliefs and strives for goals over time and in a social context.

Then, help create a new story.  Narrative intelligence, according to Denning, is understanding the world in narrative terms and seeing narrative in all aspects of human existence.  It is being familiar with the different patterns of stories that exist and knowing which narrative patterns are likely to have what effect in which situation.  “Leadership and change are driven by ordinary people who act and speak in a different way.”

So, if we want to lead the environmental movement, we have to find and publicize stories that motivate people to act, and not just of drowning polar bears.


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