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Jeffrey Wekesa

I truly appreciate your insight on the concept of Narratives and Passion. I am working on developing a explorative career portal - with my very on ideas on developing a story around it.

Your recent articles have given me confidence and assurance that I am on the right track.

Amazing stuff1

Adrian Chan

Interesting John. I'm thinking there's a distinction between objective tellings and story-telling — I think this resonates with anthropological views of oral history and cultural narratives; as well as studies of discourse (in which agency and POV feature).

Objective / Subjective

For the grand narrative feigns to tell an objective story (what sociologists would call a description).

The opportunity-based narrative however is about shift to the story teller, and a POV about the subject not object.

Ironically a successful opportunity based narrative starts as empowering tale of me, but becomes a quasi-objective description in the style of grand narrative.

Or, perhaps, as Foucault would have claimed, all history is fiction.

John Maloney

Story -- deterministic

Narrative - nondeterministic

Ken Homer

Nice distinction John, it absolutely makes sense.

It also dovetails nicely with Ronald Heifetz's distinction between "Technical Challenges" - where the knowledge we need exists somewhere and the leader's job is to track it down and organize people and resources to apply it; and "Adaptive Challenges" where our very way of perceiving and thinking is insufficient to resolving what is before us. Here the leader's job is to support people in reinventing themselves, producing new knowledge and behaviors in the process.

Your definitions of Grand Narratives seems to align well with the thinking that accompanies technical challenges. It seems focusing on GNs can lull us into a false sense of security where the future will be much like the past and present - only with shinier new toys.

On the other hand, Opportunity-Based Narratives, invite us to recognize that our perceptions are limited and our mental models of the world are mere silhouettes of the deeper realities we face. The converging trends that are going on (slightly out of most people's sphere of attention) indicate that the future will not only be different than the past, but possibly radically so. Our ability to rise to the adaptive challenge that the future represents will determine whether that future is dramatically better or horribly worse that what has gone before.

One of the best ways to work with adaptive challenges is to broaden the number of people in the conversation around the challenge. Bringing in new voices, new perspectives - especially the voices and perspectives of those who have traditionally be excluded from the conversation - nearly always results in greater collective intelligence (if the process to support its emergence are engaged) and it seems the exploration of Opportunity-based Narratives is a great way to do just that.

We'll need both a Grand Narrative of past human endeavors as creating the foundation of strengths and abilities to reinvent ourselves according to the needs of the time; as well as Opportunity-based Narratives to activate those reinvention capabilities in service to creating an enlivening future where not just a few, but everyone flourishes - anything less is a failure of capacity and imagination.

Troy Camplin

The etymology of each is interesting along these lines:

narrative - http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=narration&allowed_in_frame=0

story - http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=story

Of note: "story" is derived from "history," whereas "narrative" is an account or statement. One can give an account or statement about the future, but (interestingly, for scifi fans) not a story about it.


John, perhaps people just haven't seen, at least 1st hand, the difference between the 'grand narrative' and the opportunity narrative - or even narrative and story. I've been blessed to have several clients who create opportunity narratives that all of their people co-create, from the plant floor to the front office....like Menasha Packaging (http://menashapackaging.com) and Thogus (http://thogus.com). But they are still way too rare

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