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The importance of Story A challenge by Chris Brogan
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I am writing this post in response to a challenge by Chris Brogan to his community to write on the importance of story in my life.
Here is a link to the article discussing the challenge.
Of all the things for Chris Brogan to ask, this probably is one that speaks to me the most.
First of all, I have a company I co-founded 4 years ago named Quired.com. Quired is a web communication platform to help people and businesses more effectively share their experiences, so clearly to me, there is nothing more important. Story is the narrative of life which holds everything together or tears everything apart. It is what we probably miss or discount more than we want to admit when we are listening or observing and fail to convey when we want to make a connection.
When you walk past a homeless vagrant on the sidewalk, you have no idea if they were a Vietnam war hero, a failed CEO or an old neighbor. If you knew their story would you react differently when you passed them by? Or the rude person behind the cash register at the local convenience store. Are they always like this or did someone in their family just pass away? If you knew their story would you be more sympathetic to how they handled the situation? But what if this is their M.O, how would this make you feel about their employer?
Or your boss, who you feel is making all of the money while sitting behind a plush desk and just raking it in. If you knew his or her story and what it took to get there and most importantly what it is taking to stay there would you not look at your boss a little differently. And conversely the brand who on the surface seems to be on top of the world with ultra cool products who as you dig deeper find have a terrible track record with customer service. Or the politician whose alliances with special interests may be swaying his or her voting pattern. We just happen to live in the age where the rules of "Story" are being re-written through the advent of communication technologies.
In the past providers benefited from being able to control their story while the consumer waited to be pitched. This was true for business providers, politicians and people in general. (After all aren't we all providers and consumers to some degree or another?) Now that we are entering into the "communication age", story becomes the driving force for discovery and engagement. Not only because we want to tell our stories but because we have to. If we don't, someone else will.
Now some may feel this is an unhealthy reality. I don't. I think it is revolutionary and evolutionary.
I don't want to know about the shoe you are selling. I want to know what motivated you to create the shoe and how this relates to my needs. And I don't want to hear this from the shoe manufacturer, I want to hear this from a friend who likes the shoe who is able to pass on the story to me. I want to know that the boss is working their butt off to grow the business and what they are passionate about so I can share this with other employees and prospects and most importantly stay motivated about my employer.
Of course we can't know everybody's story. (Are you really going to ask the convenience store clerk her story.) But as story becomes more important in our society and the tools evolve to help us tell and relate to stories more effectively, I feel we will become more accountable on how our story lines up with our actions and re-think how we relate to others.Yelp and Sunlight Labs are a perfect example of the former point. We would like Quired to be an example for the latter.
Yes the pursuit of happiness is a valuable instrument in the fabric of our society but equally important if no not more so is the pursuit of understanding. The power of the story has never been more relevant.