Hidden Stories
by Brendan Howley

The essence of collaboration - part 1

If we as human beings want to activate the best we can do, we need to actually meet our fellow humans where they are, to listen to their stories in a radically new way… and tell them their stories back. That’s where we find the click. We humans have one asset, little utilized save by investigators from historians and professors of comparative religion/literature, to insurance adjustors to counter-intelligence officers to forensic accountants to savvy financial analysts, few of whom might in the first instance characterize their disciplines as story-based.

Yet each of these specialists are in fact dependent for their success on a deep understanding of the inferential richness to be had by applying diagnostic and logical rigour to parallel narratives in conjunction with numeric data.

And, we believe, precisely the same logical rigour applies to collaborative strategies derived from shared stories.

'Where a story goes next’.

The leap of the imagination is this:

What if we align the stories like beach towels drying on a laundry line, side by side, and then search across the parallel stories for patterns of qualities? An analogy: one can sing the melody of a song (its surface structure and emotional impact) but the magic of the song itself lies in the hidden moving parts of its harmonic structure (the underlying patterns of chords, their voicings and the bass line which drive the music); we can sing without us ever noticing that harmony's there—or understanding it.

But no harmonic structure, no song. And the interrelationships of the musical elements which form the harmonic progressions of the song are mathematically coherent.

Analogies:

  • A cross-cut of a beam reveals grain, the essence of the strength utility of the wood; the cross-cut of an ancient tree and its rings reveals deep history of drought, fire, ice age.
  • 'Sectioning' is the essence of anatomy: looking across tissue structure to begin to understand the nexus of living form and function.

What then would that tell us about the collaborative possibilities buried in the hidden stories no organization has ever heard or shared with itself…the kinds of stories that build the kind of trust that makes that much-abused word —‘innovation’—actually come to life?

Change through sharing

We start with stories, deeply personal human stories. These stories reveal patterns and hidden truths…and what’s implied when the pattern breaks—those missing pieces of story-data that are pure gold when you spot them.

And we do: our process uniquely surfaces those ‘lacunae’—what ought to be there but isn’t—out of the voice of the people you most want to hear from.

That’s the first layer of our analysis.

The second layer is that the story patterns reveal precisely those tools with which you can design, pre-validate and share stories that will move people.

Because they’ll feel that they are all about them: the stories are spring-boarded by the cultural triggers—deeply personal, not ‘one size fits all’—that underpin human behaviors.

And here’s the thing; when the stories are all about them, people share them. Because, as we said off the top, we’re wired to tell and share our stories. And in the sharing, people create the change you are after: the moments of discovery, of learning, of changing their lives—the moments when we’re most open to the new.

But it all starts with understanding their stories.