In business and daily life, we are wired for stories as a species. One creation myth begins by saying God created humans because he needed good stories. Stories bind us together, creating an emotionally connected narrative through which we make sense of the world. I want to share a Here’s What I Love About My Careerstory with you.
The background is a co-creation session where we were exploring grooming products. The third group consisted of Extreme Men, masculine dudes: Iron men, Paratroopers, Special Forces, and one stereotypical Hipster. From his wave-like, flowing beard to his shaved head and skullcap, this Hipster was the rouge element in the session. He reeked of marijuana, was a few minutes late, and made sure to point out many of his tattoos. He also talked about his job a lot, a clerk in a Vape store.
As we worked through concepts and conversation, he was quick to proclaim his Hipster creed. For example, he rebelled vehemently against anything that required recharging or refilling, preferring the virtues of a straight razor and shaving foam. This quest for authenticity was not shared by the others, who valued efficiency, a rewarding sensory experience, and convenience. After saying “thank you for the social theory, but please do not assume your view of reality is reality for everyone else in the room” and respectfully stopping his monologue, we moved to the next concept.
Without missing a beat, he emoted, “Now, this one, this one is something I’d love!” He continued, “guys, I have a confession to make. I have a hairy back and this would make it much easier for me to reach.” Then he shared something so endearing, it softened the hearts of hardened men: “My mom used to shave it for me. Now, my girlfriend does.”
One of the special forces members stood up, banged once on the table, pointed, and praised: “she’s a keeper!” The room broke out in spontaneous applause.
This very human story serves as a testament as to the innate power of people to support and encourage one another. At this moment I squealed like a happy pig. Joy infused the air. Wisdom was being shared from one tribe to another. Bonds were forming. Kindness was overflowing. In a nanosecond, a completive instinct rang out and a voice broke within: “what a blessing and honor to do this work.”At root the session wasn’t about the product concepts, but humanity’s essential unity. One subject was just a means to getting through the illusory veil of separateness.
Then, the analytical side of me tapped its imaginary pencil on the conference room table, indicating that it was time to get back to work, tally up the votes on the concept, foster conversation around what changes my new friends would make to the prototype, and lead a discussion around pricing.
Stories are the taproot of humanity. They define culture. What stories are you gathering and sharing at your business? How do they transform you personally and your organization for the better?
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Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.