So much of what we in Narrate do is pure common sense, but comes as a revelation to lots of people. One example is the Future, Backwards technique. It’s a Cognitive Edge-developed tool that’s excellent for all sorts of reasons above and beyond the obvious one of using it to debate/imagine/envision the future of a group of people.
The great moment for many is early on in the process, when we’re building up the back-story of the organisation. The discussions are always good and illuminating, with a fast-developing sense of common understanding around past history. Often, the different perspectives on a common event are both entertaining and helpful.
Frequently, however, I’m asked why bother with the past when the work is focused on the future.
A couple of reasons for me. Firstly, the patterns we perceive in our past restrict and limit the possibilities we see in our future. And by pulling them out of our heads and making them visible to everyone, we have greater awareness and hence choice about our future. It’s also worth noting that the past that’s created by people in the exercise usually differs greatly from the official version – different emphases, different takes on events.
Secondly, I liken the organisation to a soap opera – if you’re taking over the local pub, it’s always helpful to know about the fire/fight/breakup that took place there a couple of years ago. Coming into an organisation without the baggage of its history can be helpful, but not if you don’t know where the pitfalls lie or where the skeletons are kept.
Most importantly for communications and culture, it’s helpful to know what people heard/believed the last time the CEO stood up and talked about the need for change. Because, if you take the same approach this time, they already know what to expect – regardless of what words you dress it in.