Why story is vital to a project's success

story Jan 10, 2021
Sapiens is a bestseller by Professor Yuval Noah Harari

In December, Christians all over the world celebrated the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Jews celebrated Hanukkah, the story of the Jews rising up against their oppressors in the second century BC. Later in the year, Muslims will celebrate Ramadan, the story of Allah giving the Prophet Muhammad the first chapters of the Quran.

These are all powerful, inspiring stories. They define us all more that we know.

If you want to be in the communication business, you have to be in the story business. How important are stories? Well, in order to survive and thrive you need stories. In fact, stories are how you got here. Let me explain.

For Christmas, my husband gave me the graphic novel ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’. It’s the story of us, Homo Sapiens.

In the book, historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari explains why Homo Sapiens survived to be the only humans on the plants today; how we eliminated other human species - like Homo Neanderthal, Homo Erectus, Homo Denisova and others.

And how did we do that? Through stories. We dominated because we told stories. We painted our stories on the walls of caves. Our ancestors surrounded themselves with stories. The stories became a tool for social cooperation between different bands of Homo Sapiens. According to Professor Harari, the stories helped to break down barriers and build trust so that small bands could amalgamate into larger groups with larger ambitions.

Stories brought Homo Sapiens together. And if they all believed in the same stories, they cooperated together and dominated. They spread around the globe, at the expense of all the other human species.

Here’s a really important fact about our relationship with stories: we are the only animals on this planet capable of inventing and believing stories. We are hard-wired for stories, which is why we survived.

So we tell our great and inspirational stories over and over. They inspire us, motivate us, give us a common purpose and keep us behaving (more or less) consistently with the story.

What is your story? Your company’s story? How are you using your stories to engage your clients, or colleagues? Does everyone on your team buy into the same story?

Are you using stories, like our ancestors did 70,000 years ago, to unite your team or community, motivate them to work together, and through that cooperation achieve the success you desire?