Note — Feb 23, 2020

Narrative Strategy

Longtime reader Tom Critchlow with an interesting reflection, poking at the ideas of a few independents (including yours truly) who, in one way or another, use writing and narrative in their strategy work. That’s one aspect, or one layer, in something like a stack of skills and practices. I’d like to add a few words regarding another layer; to be any good, the strategy work and writing is usually grounded in experience and perhaps some methods or processes. But, what I try to do and what I believe the work of these guys* also does, is to base it in ongoing observation and insight. By which I mean having a practice of observing many different fields, recognizing noteworthy aspects, trends, patterns, and infusing all of these in our work—be it design, writing, strategy, conversation, etc.

It seems to me that many strategists are focused on a relatively stagnant practice, where I believe instead that a constant flow of new learnings and sense-making is essential for one to be relevant. Which is where the second aspect of what I do comes in; writing briefings for clients, relating to specific topics and questions, to inform their thinking.

Both the thought partnership and the briefings can still be a hard sell because the idea that “making more sense of what’s going on helps you make more sense of your own work/strategy” doesn’t seem to resonate with everyone as a good investment. Which, frankly, keeps baffling me.

* Speaking of which, any women to recommend who work in a similar overlap?

And this is where narrative strategy comes in. It turns out that serialized writing is the perfect medium for ensuring that strategy “in motion” is articulated, circulated and understood by a greater number of people within the company. […]

This is also true of the 1-on-1 thought partnership work. Here the goal was to translate macro level thinking, or personal experience, into actionable insights for the client’s audience. […]

Themes, narratives, metaphors, abstractions. They are tools for understanding. They can be deployed internally to set a vision for the company; they can drive product vision and roadmap; they can be used in sales decks; they can even be used in product interfaces. […]

Articulation is the first product. You’ll always need to find better ways to communicate to move your business forward.