Stories…..

Stories are the way we make sense of things, as well as commit them to memory. They are at the heart of our histories. Stories are fractal – every story has smaller stories within it, and is itself part of an ever developing larger story.

I’ve come to understand that stories are a good way to understand our relationship with our work. At any one point, both the organisation we work for and ourselves are at different points along our story line. We are founded, or born, and spend the rest our our time time working out who we are and want we want. It changes.

As we develop, sometimes the story of the organisation and the story of us align. We are good together, companions on a path that suits us both. We learn from each other, support each other, and enjoy the journey.

At other times, our stories diverge. Our needs become different. The organisation wants to settle down, but the individual wants to explore – or maybe the other way round. Either way, there comes a point where paths separate if each is to achieve what it wants from life.

The complication arises when separation needs to occur, but doesn’t. One becomes dependent on the other, or perhaps just takes it for granted. The pain comes when something unexpected happens, and a separation is forced upon the relationship. Business Failure, Headhunters, Circumstance.

When that happens, one or the other, or maybe neither is prepared. They’ve forgotten their story, and have to try and remember it; to pick it up where it trailed off.

It’s a salutary lesson. If we are not actively living our story, developing it, exploring it, the story goes into hibernation.

If we’re not aware, right now, of where we are in our story, either as individuals or organisations, and are making sure they are developing, we have a problem.

Everyone wants to be a chef

One of our local schools is recruiting for a chef. The queue of applicants is out of the door.

Another school is recruiting for a deputy head. There is no queue.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s the narrative.

Teachers, and particularly head teachers have enormous workloads, are assessed continually, have restricted budgets and get caught in any crossfire between parents and authorities.

Chefs are cool. Every other tv show features a chef, or a gardener. They are glamorous, creating culinary and horticultural works of art that last a short while, and transitory pleasure in consumption.

Celebrity chefs get to make their living serving other celebrities.

Teachers grow people. The work they do lasts a lifetime, and their capacity to deliver positive change is huge. Their “added value” over a lifetime is incalculable. They make their living, for the most part, working for the benefit of people you will never hear of.

Yet, as a society, we lionise chefs.

Strange.

Spirit of Schumpeter

Joseph Schumpeter was the Austrian Economist who made the term “creative destruction” famous. He was a thinker ahead of his time around business and entrepreneurship.

I wonder what he would make of today? Would he see the changes on the High St, and the increasing weakness of the big companies of the last century as they turn into zombies as a bad thing, or a good thing.

I suspect the latter. The moment we organise any business, we build stickiness and resistance to change into it. The only question is how long before it falls far enough behind the rate of change in its markets to become irrelevant.

We shouldn’t (though often do) have a problem with that. However, Nicholas Taleb suggests that the three biggest addictions are heroin, carbohydrates and a regular monthly salary. The first two are a choice, but the latter for most a necessity.

That doesn’t mean we can’t control it.

By developing a mindset of doing the best we can for an employer, but not being dependent. As Robert de Niro says in the film “Heat”; “don’t get involved in anything you can’t walk away from in 30 seconds”

If we’re employees, I think that’s a healthy mindset- it keeps us, and our employers, on our toes.

The trick of course is to be able to walk away. To develop the skills, contacts, values and awareness that makes our relationship with an employer one of equals. That means training, reading, discussing and above all thinking.

For destruction to be creative, it has to create way for something.

That something is an individual and team responsibility, because the destruction will arrive anyway.

And it’s a good thing.

Scary maybe, but good.