The Case for Narrative Intelligence

Posted by Kristin Luck on 10/30/20 10:52 AM
Kristin Luck
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Late last week Christina Blacken (Founder of The kindly shared with me a paper she’d authored titled “Change the Status Quo Through Your Narrative Intelligence”. What’s “narrative intelligence”? Blacken writes “it is the ability to leverage the psychological power of story to change behavior and inspire action.”

If you’ve spent any time in the marketing research or marketing performance sector (where I still spend a good chunk of my consulting hours), storytelling is paramount to delivering truly meaningful insights. Yet management teams seem to largely rely on traditional leadership practices, or as Blacken notes in her paper, those driven by “fear driven narratives around money, success, identity and leadership.”

Narrative Intelligence, on the other hand, recognizes “how stories impact and influence values, bias, personal and cultural beliefs, and behaviors”.

Blacken’s “Narrative Intelligence” framework works to increase leadership influence, and reduce unconscious biastweet-line-bottom

Blacken’s paper particularly resonates with me as I’ve spent the last 15 years championing women in executive roles, only to see the progress we’ve made rolled back significantly as women leave the workforce in record droves due to COVID related issues like child and elder care. In September 2020 alone, McKinsey reported that “865,000 women left the workforce, with effects playing out differently for those of different races and classes.”

These numbers are hugely problematic when you look at the impact that diverse management teams have on business performance. Boston Consulting Group has reported that “Companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. Goldman Sachs found that since 2016, “US companies that have gone public with at least one female board director outperformed companies that do not.” And Harvard Business Review found that the “most diverse enterprises measured, on average, 9% points higher on EBIT margins.”

Traditional management frameworks are struggling to adapt to the needs of a now, largely, remote workforce. McKinsey found that more than 80% of employees they surveyed in a recent study say the crisis is affecting their daily lives. This study yielded three overarching insights (summarized as follows):

  1. Leaders need to be present, action oriented, empathetic and fully transparent.

  2. The development of trusting relationships, social cohesion and individual purpose are having a disproportionate impact on employee well-being and work effectiveness.

  3. Changes are hitting employees in wildly diverging ways. Some are struggling (particularly women with children) and some are thriving. Interventions need to be tailored and/or personalized.

Read on to see how you can use Blacken’s “Narrative Intelligence” framework to solve for the above as well as increase influence, reduce unconscious bias, discover purpose behind action and ideas, and build relationships. View full article...


Topics: Thought Leadership, Leadership


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