Author: Imogen Wallersteiner

Culture change: how to transform your culture during a crisis

2020 was a year of rapid and continuous change. Such explosive change for organisations is truly unprecedented, and having an existing robust company culture has been necessary for businesses not just to stay rooted, but to grow in this challenging environment. 

With the transition to remote working at the outset of the pandemic, a major fear was that company culture would be difficult to sustain. How could businesses maintain something so dependent on day-to-day interactions such as in-person meetings, socialising and chance encounters in the office virtually? Culture is something so intangible and abstract that it is known for being ‘what takes place when managers leave the room’. How can leaders role model culture through Zoom? And amidst the continuing whirlwind of change taking place in the world around us, how can companies continue to transform, adapt and innovate?

Inevitably, the shift from the office to home-based working has transformed behaviours, as culture is made up of workplace relationships and interactions. Companies are now considering serious questions such as how they can foster a global mindset in a digitally-connected world. There is also a strong focus on retaining culture when the physical environment of the office, water cooler chats and casual conversations have been taken away. Technology alone cannot shape culture and it still needs to be defined and articulated. 

In fast-moving global markets, culture is the biggest determiner of sustainable advantage. It determines agility, collaboration, how fast you can innovate and how hard you can drive towards a collective goal. By communicating and showing how your culture still exists and is able to thrive in a socially distanced, remote working world, you can ensure it stays strong throughout the pandemic and beyond. 

Complete the form on this page to download our latest ebook, and find out how you can use storytelling to shift behaviours and deliver long-lasting, sustainable change in your organisation today. 

It’s time to change the narrative

Oh, 2020: the year in which ‘unprecedented timesbecame our national catchphrase. As we pick up the pieces from the past year and look to the uncertain terrain of 2021, there’s no escaping the dominant narrative that will govern our memory of the last twelve months.

But here at The Storytellers we know that building belief in change is the first step to a better future; and that belief-building starts with stories of positive change.

So in defiance of the bad and in celebration of the good, here are three wonderful stories from the past year that fill us with hope for the next:

Captain Sir Tom Moore, the 99-year-old army veteran who pledged to walk 100 lengths of his garden to raise money for the NHS, became an international sensation raising over £13m. His story, in the depths of the pandemic and the first lockdown, spread hope and positivity in a time when both were really needed.

Scientists worked together to deliver a vaccine in record-breaking time. Almost 200 vaccines have been put into development, showing the power of collective action in a crisis. A crisis can sometimes bring out the best in people, uniting them behind a common cause to work out a solution together.  

The US saw Kamala Harris voted in as vice-president in November. Breaking gender and racial boundaries, and inspiring hope for women across the world. Once elected, she said: “While I may be the first woman in this office. I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

We are always looking out for positive stories of change, and we have heard no shortage of them coming out of the organisations we work with during 2020. We saw organisations dramatically accelerate aspects of their transformation in months rather than years. We watched as employees came together as we launched our new virtual story-driven events, reaching 100 per cent more employees than we could do before. We saw one company achieve its first year of growth since 2008.  

This was the year when we came together to stay positive. We clapped on our balconies and in our gardens for the NHS. We tried out new things and became teachers for our children. We overcame obstacles and learnt to balance working from home. Pollution improved, we got healthier and spent more time outdoors appreciating nature. We met on Zoom and Teams (and we’re still constantly on mute). Perhaps most importantly, we stayed connected whilst apart. 

At The Storytellers, we celebrate the stories that move more people to do great things, however big or small.

What story will you tell in 2021?

Making the next big difference: considering customer needs

As any company tries to reinvent itself in a competitive market, it is often necessary to offer large-scale strategic changes. However, in such moments, there is the chance that change fatigue arises. This was the challenge facing one international courier, who were struggling to engage employees. 

By using the inspirational power of storytelling, however, they were able to stress the relationship between strategy and shopfloor, briefing and behaviour: between process and people. 

Creating Christmas cheer

As the festive season nears, millions of people will look forward to connecting with their loved ones.

For one recently divorced father, however, his Christmas promised no such pleasure. His new life had taken him far from his old Suffolk home, and his festive period would be spent in Glasgow, alone.

Yet he wanted his to children know that his thoughts were with them at this family time. He carefully selected a series of books, wrote heartfelt notes to accompany them, and sent them.

Soon, however, he realised that they had not been delivered, with Christmas approaching fast.

Concerned, the father called the carrier, worried that this children would feel forgotten on Christmas Day. His calls revealed that the books had disappeared, and nobody could locate them. 

After a final attempt to find the parcels proved fruitless, one of the carrier’s employees spoke up. They’d heard the father’s story, and wanted his family to receive the tokens of his love. 

With time running out, however, it was not possible for the father to rebuy and resend the presents. So one last call was made: to ask him exactly what he wanted to send them, and what he’d written in his notes. 

The carrier’s team sprang into action: a swift city centre visit to ensure that exactly the same gifts were bought, and that the parcels were sent to Suffolk – just in time for Santa’s visit. It was a unique example of the carrier’s employees going above and beyond – making a difference – and saving Christmas for one affectionate father.

A company transformed

Shortly after placing narrative – storytelling – at the heart of their organizational revamp, the carrier realised that employees were feeling more engaged, and that the role of their day-to-day work in achieving better things was clear. The changes were as measurable as they were impressive: reduced absenteeism (6.7 per cent to 4.7 per cent), an 11 per cent reduction in staff turnover, skyrocketing Employee Survey scores, and, two years after a loss of £190 million, a healthy return to profit: all acting as a testament to the power of storytelling to transform an organisation. 

To discover how storytelling can transform your business, download our e-book, Storytelling: how to reset an organisation’s narrative to inspire change

Ebook: Hosting a powerful and memorable virtual event

The nature of history is that major crises, like wars and rebellions, have sparked movements of change and seminal innovations. For example, at the end of WW2, the EU was set up with the aim of ending frequent and violent wars. Women finally gained the vote. The assembly of the world’s first electronic general-purpose digital computer was completed. As we begin to learn to live with the pandemic, it’s time for us to reflect on the innovations happening around us – particularly our societal shift in embracing the virtual world and unlocking its possibilities. 

Virtual events have never been so necessary. In this time of social distancing, working remotely and heightened uncertainty, organisational connectivity is essential. Humans are social animals. Interacting as a group or a ‘tribe’ is a fundamental need we have for our sense of wellbeing, and to enable us to make sense of the world and what is going on around us. So events that bring people together – even if online – provide an opportunity to build a sense of community – a space for leaders to open themselves up to those around them and hear their colleagues’ voices. 

At The Storytellers, we have put on virtual gatherings and experiences for our clients for many years now. We have long blended physical and virtual environments in corporate events, and inspired and engaged people on an emotional level through storytelling and narrative. 

Across our work with over 180 major organisations, we have discovered what makes a powerful and memorable virtual event. In this piece, we have identified what underpins our story-driven events, and have gathered together our top tips for putting on inspiring and engaging virtual and hybrid experiences. 

There are three key traits which make up any inspiring and memorable story-driven event. Discover them by downloading our white paper in full by completing the form on this page, and reach out to us if you need guidance and support in connecting your organisation through a virtual event. 

The road to resilience: why stories matter

The ancient Stoics taught that we must learn to control what can, and relinquish control over what we can’t, accepting that disaster may come and go – perhaps perpetually. The teachings of the great Stoic Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius were, fittingly, shaped by another great plague. His Meditations instruct that it is how we behave and respond to adversity that is important for personal growth and development. This, for the Stoics, was the core lesson of resilience: carefully enshrining what lies in your control and enabling yourself to become the agent of your own story. 

So what can you, as a leader, really focus your energy on now that is in your power to change?

Shape your narrative 

Covid-19 has unearthed realities about what people need from leaders during times of crisis: clarity, humanity and empathy. To be a leader right now often requires bravely admitting that you don’t have all the answers. What you can do is show your vision for the path ahead as much as you can, and react with the times. Recent analysis has stated that in the 2020s, the most successful organisations will be those who ‘constantly learn and adapt to changing realities’ (BCG). Sometimes the journey is more important than the goal itself. 

The story about you 

Every leader will have their own story of the pandemic -– a story outlining their experience, what they did and how they helped their people through it. The Harvard Professor of Leadership, Marshall Ganz, describes this type of narrative as ‘a story of self’: everyone has one and it communicates the teller’s values. As a leader, this story is an opportunity to connect with your people and to show them how you responded to the specific challenges of the past few months. 

Perceptions shaped in the crucible of crises are the ones that stick. A recent study of customers’ reactions to Covid-19 found that three-quarters of respondents said they wouldn’t forget businesses that took missteps in dealing with their people ‘long after’ the crisis ends (McKinsey, 2020). The story you’re telling about yourself, as a leader, is constructed by the perceptions of your customers and your people in both word and deed. 

The stories written in a crisis and during periods of change have an especially deep imprint because they are moments of defining challenge. In fact, all stories have a moment of decisive crisis for their heroes. In Joseph Campbell’s universal story structure of the ‘Hero’s Journey’, these moments are transformative – the time to answer the call or fail the test. By recognising your symbolic role in this crisis, which will extend long beyond the next few months, you can then ask yourself the question: what will my hero’s journey look like?

By taking control over the story that is told by you, you bring your people with you on the journey of change. A large manufacturer came to us during a major acquisition –  it was doubling in size and delivering its ambitious growth strategy by acquiring an even bigger rival – spanning 110 sites in 21 countries. The Story we co-created provided context and an inspiring shared purpose, and under an aligned newly-formed leadership team the organisation was connected to the Story and united behind it. 

Listen to the small stories 

Small stories – the everyday reports of innovation, resilience and dedication coming out of your organisation are the bedrock of the larger narrative. The Stoics advocate time to keep renewing yourself. In the midst of crisis, the sense to recalibrate and pause is vital in allowing for stories to be unearthed – build these stories into the way you move forward as a business. 

By sharing what good looks like, you can inspire action and build belief in your narrative. We recently hosted a virtual event for an international bank; the event provided the space for leaders and their teams to share examples of success and resilience seen within the organisation during the pandemic. One story was particularly emotive: the bank had launched an initiative that focused on calling up older and potentially vulnerable customers. In the past, these customers would visit bank branches in person and may not have had personal cash cards or access to online banking. An employee spoke to an 80-year-old customer who had tried to get out to the local shop, but it was closed. She asked him if he had enough food, to which he replied saying he had “enough for today only”. She asked if he would like her to look up charities which could help deliver his food. She spoke to Age UK which rang him back and arranged to do his shopping from that day onwards. 

Make meaning with narrative

By making something meaningful and coherent out of the past few months, you are providing your people with the context they need. Small stories inspire and give hope, and by bringing to life a wider narrative they crucially make it human. 

Making the connection between small stories and the big picture narrative helps people to understand strategy  – not as abstract concepts, but as principles they can live everyday. One way of bringing this to life is through virtual events, so that this can happen even when working remotely. We have found that in our recent virtual leadership conferences, learnings from the pandemic have been at the front and centre of discussion. What people need right now is the space to have these discussions. 

So take the time to listen, and then begin your journey into the ‘new normal’.

To check how ready your organisation is for the next twelve months and beyond try our latest health-check diagnostic and receive a personalised report followed by a free consultation from our team.

We can be heroes: how to ‘nudge’ people into action

Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.

In these unimaginable times we have all found ourselves living in a strap-line. The government knows that right now, life-and-death action depends on the ability to speak – clearly and emotively – to every aspect of our lives and selves: enmeshed, since lockdown, like never before. The national dilemma is the rupture between our personal and professional purpose – we need to perform our work (and pay our bills) but we also want to save lives. We want to be heroes. And now, this strap-line tells us, we can be. These three neat lines tell us clearly what’s expected of us – but we want to do those things because they make us the hero of the story. By working from home, staying in and changing our habits on a major scale, we are protecting the NHS – and like the NHS workers, who we applaud every week for their true, staggering heroism, we can help to save lives too. 

These implied heroics are no accident. This strap-line – potentially the most critical government communication ever implemented – has been developed with all the behavioural insight of the famous ‘Nudge’ unit that helps us to hack our own human biases to make better decisions like saving for our pensions and looking after our health. And to really get people to take these measures, government communications need to make people care. Employing the effective ‘rule of three’, their slogan is incredibly clear. But on top of clarity, these words incentivise individuals to do their bit. We now know exactly the role we need to play in order to ‘flatten the curve’ – in the words of David Bowie: ‘We can be heroes’. 

Going beyond simply rational information, our intrinsic emotional motivation is being spoken to shift our personal narrative. The Nudge unit uses a framework termed ‘EAST’: make a decision easy, attractive, social and timely. Nudges are a subtle, voluntary and human-centred mechanism of exerting influence. Helping people to contribute through clear, tangible action and implanting nudges that support collaborative and resilient behaviours. Dan and Chip Heath’s analogy of the ‘elephant and the rider’ describes the tension between the rider (our rational mind) and the elephant (our emotional mind). The key is getting the two moving together: something leaders can do by helping guide the emotional and rational minds of their teams. 

Locate the inspiring narrative

Before you achieve collective action – you need to tap into the meaningful narrative. This is the source of the power of our current strap-line. ‘Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives’ has tapped into our most beloved national self image – the narrative that means the most, centred around one of our most cherished assets – the NHS. It also harnesses the blitz spirit and sense of collective national values. Leaders won’t have a hope without identifying the foundational narrative – relevant, authentic, meaningful and inspiring – they’re building all their communications from. But if they can, there’s huge power and opportunity 

Action, not just words

In the context of C-19, INSEAD’s Professor of Change, Gianpiero Petriglieri urges leaders to think of ‘holding’ their people: reassuring and affirming their faith in their company. ‘In groups whose leaders can hold’ he writes, ‘mutual support abounds, work continues, and a new vision eventually emerges’ (Harvard Business Review, April 2020). This is a period of prolonged uncertainty, far longer than any of us are used to. Employees need to feel ‘held’ safely – not abandoned to the unknown. As this is a very real hazard of our times. Richard Branson, a brand built on trust and transparency, has created real hurt and distrust amongst his Virgin Atlantic employees by asking them to take eight weeks unpaid leave. Whilst Branson has since apologised for this major misjudgement, the internal damage between his people and their trust in him will take a lot longer to repair. Branson failed to prepare and then subsequently reassure his employees – doing lasting damage in a context where employees will be more attuned than ever to how businesses treat their people in crisis. Long-term anxiety and ultimately disconnection is a likely symptom of this error. 

Find the stories, find the heroes

Captain Tom Moore’s fundraising story has captured our hearts. His story of his remarkable achievement of raising £33million for the NHS taps into something bigger than just the current pandemic. It taps into our memory of the past, WW2 and our collective history. It brings to life the strap-line: that we can be heroes from our own homes. It has circulated organically around the nation and has been amplified by government, which recognises the power of this singular example to reinforce the narrative they’re urging us to embrace. 

Stories like this make narratives meaningful and actionable. They provide the motivation to act, they role model what it means to act, and they sustain our momentum to act by becoming an inspiring part of the conversation around us. By seeding new stories that role model behaviours and make change feel possible, leaders can embed new norms and inspire collective action. When we hear stories that we empathise with, our brains release serotonin and oxytocin, the neurotransmitters of empathy. We connect with them. Jennifer Aaker, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business says that people remember information when it is weaved into narratives “up to 22 times more than facts alone” (Lean in). 

Words aren’t just saving lives during this crisis, but they are a mechanism that can modulate our fears, pull us back to purpose, and guide us in the dark. For leaders, choosing the right words will be the difference between sinking and swimming. 

With remote-working and increased physical distance from one another, we face the threat of disconnection like never before. And as we are jolted out of normality, mental wellbeing will be thrown off kilter for many. The ‘emotional revolution’, led by psychotherapist Esther Perel, has made great strides in addressing mental health in the workplace, but we can’t let this drop off now. Leaders can’t control the immediate side-effects of this crisis on working life – the strains of a poor home internet connection and disruptive children and pets. However, leaders can perform their duty of care and communicate with their people in new, somewhat atypical ways. 

Looking ahead 

As humans, we are hardwired to create a sense of connection from what was to what will be. Psychologists call this the ‘continuity principle’. We tell stories as our impulse is to create meaning and patterns from chaos, to peer through the haze of uncertainty. As Esther Perel contends, such mechanisms even physically soothe us, they ‘slow down our breath’ and make us ‘attentive’ (FT, April 2020). Interruption can happen at anytime, it might be a global pandemic or it could be the next M&A – any radical change requires people to move quickly. A narrative is a way of helping employees move with purpose, and connect their inner story to the journey ahead. 

Communications and posters alone won’t change behaviour. As a country and as a world, never before have we been connected by such a common purpose. This purpose needs to be articulated clearly, with heart, empathy and grit by leaders. This painful time will pass; and in the interim leaders can begin to build the emotional conditions in their teams and their organisational culture for long-term renewal and resilience.

The case for connectivity

It is 1979. The ‘Walkman’ has just been introduced to the Japanese market. Within three months, its entire stock of 30,000 units has sold out. For a decade after its launch, Sony’s Walkman retained 50% of market share in the U.S. (The Atlantic). Sony had cutting edge tech, bold vision, and the rights to the world’s best-selling musicians. But today we aren’t listening to our music on a Walkman. Instead, it was Apple – a technology brand with no relevant pedigree – that joined the dots to our musical future. Why?

In the early 2000s, Sony fell victim to the consequences of a disconnected business. Following a spate of successes from the 1950s through to the 1990s, Sony was focused on investing, selling and innovating hardware. It had various business divisions creating MP3 players, but they weren’t talking to each other. They weren’t in a rush. They stalled their product launch through fears that people would acquire their music for free; these were the days of LimeWire, Napster and rampant music piracy. So while Sony could see that the transition from hardware to software was happening – and even participate at the front lines of that innovation – it couldn’t join the dots. It was blind to the fundamental nature of the shift. 

With the iPod’s self-contained eco-system, slick interface and intuitive design Apple realised the power of that shift and transformed the industry overnight. 

Connectivity drives performance

The rapid pace of change left Sony Walkman behind. But its message is as true today and more urgent than it ever was. Businesses need to be connected. They need to be agile systems, not lonely units. Today’s complex organisations are not unlike huge orchestras, with an ever-expanding pool of new players, instruments and frantic harmonies. No surprise then that the musicians are playing different tunes. When organisations don’t talk to each other information and opportunity are lost. 

Every orchestra needs to be led by a good conductor. Steve Jobs was no perfect leader, but he was a peerless conductor. He had a vision he could bring the world into, creating a higher purpose for Apple and creating a site of unmatched innovation.

Connect with a narrative 

Elite teams demonstrate the power of a clear goal and common purpose, whether on the field or in the workplace. 

What tool creates connection? Narrative. We’re storytelling animals. We know that the human brain needs context to process information, and people need to feel before they take action. An effective change narration creates the emotional and rational conditions of change by connecting employees to the journey ahead. 

The effects can be monumental. We worked with a large pharmaceutical company looking to boost performance in the midst of a major transformation. Working with the Executive committee, we crafted a narrative that called on the organisation’s people to ‘change the world again’. Coupled with an integrated programme, this narrative set out the foundation of the ‘ownership’ culture where each member of the team could play an essential role. 

But it takes personal connection to bring any narrative to life; and it takes authentic role-modelling to make any leader worth following. That’s why, to launch the narrative, the business’s founder began by telling his own personal story: a powerful story about the power of story. As a young doctor, he had helped a patient through cancer and realised he could change things on a bigger scale by finding cures, not administering them. 

The power of purpose

A year later, during the trial of a drug for a rare disease in Mexico, the research and development team received a call from a desperate mother with a sick child. Living thousands of miles from the trial in Mexico City, it would have taken six months for the drug to get to the child due to legislation. But the team were so moved by the mother’s plea for help, they decided to find a new way to bring help to her. By working together across the business, they delivered the drug to the child. The child’s life was saved. The team were truly inspired by the story, and the purpose it instilled in them moved them to achieve beyond expectations. 

Connect with head and heart 

“No man or woman is an island, entire of itself,” said the poet John Donne in 1624. These words ring true today – everything and everybody are connected, and no organisation or individual acts on their own. Over the previous three decades, we have become a hyper-connected world. Information flows constantly – we need new ways to make constant connections. A company-wide narrative provides a common purpose and a shared foundation to build from; but it is the connection – between collective narrative and personal storytelling, between geographies and expertise, between head and heart – which makes a story-driven approach the key to powerfully connected, high performing teams. 

Connect with kindness: responding to Covid-19

Stories are fascinating things. They convey huge amounts of information. They help people to make meaning of things and rapidly learn. They impact behaviours and spark ideas.

Storytelling itself has enormous potential to accelerate change and drive performance.

But through this period of unprecedented change and uncertainty there is one benefit of storytelling that is perhaps most relevant for leaders to consider. It is the ability of stories to connect people at a rational and an emotional level. It’s the fact that stories can connect us and unite people behind both challenges and opportunities.

The stories that emerge about an organisation now will help define the lens through which their people, partners, customers, shareholders and the communities they operate within view them.

Whether it was Pret A Manager announcing its actions to support NHS members, LinkedIn providing free learning materials, Louis Vuitton turning its hand to manufacturing hand sanitiser or Google moving quickly to set up a fund for temporary staff to take paid sick leave, companies are playing their part in making people’s lives easier.  

Small stories

An ocean of kindness and support has swept across the globe, and stories are emerging at local and global levels. A small corner shop in Edinburgh is giving away free ‘corona virus packs’ to the elderly. Likewise, a local distillery in Bristol is producing sanitary gel rather than gin and donating it to local residents in exchange for a donation to charity.Even small stories are having a major impact: inquiries for the sanitiser have been pouring in from all over the country, including from Network Rail and many hospitals. 

Individual acts 

On Monday, fitness guru Joe Wicks became the nation’s PE teacher with more than 800,000 households live streaming his home workout. The Kindness Pandemic Facebook group which started on 14th March now has more than 80,000 followers across the world who are encouraging each other by sharing stories of the individual acts of kindness they have shown. 

The benefits

Acts of kindness build the right stories within an organisation as they inspire employees and customers to do great things. Psychology even shows that acts of kindness create an emotional win for two parties as they are both left with a positive glow (Guardian). Further, cognitive science has shown that shared adversity brings out team innovation and creativity (Psychol, 2013). 

In these complex and uncertain times, the power of connecting with one another at an emotional level is more pertinent than ever before. Kindness will keep teams motivated, engaged and connected with one another. And as we go through this together, community action will keep us on the right path forward. This is a narrative that belongs to all of us, at a national and global level, and we can write it together. 

Countering contagion: storytelling for the VUCA age

How do you protect your teams from contagion? How do you do business while ‘self-isolating’? How do you risk manage the systemic complexities and co-dependencies of global markets? How healthy are your supply chains looking right now? 

From biblical African locust swarms to the outbreak of epidemic, the new decade has already served business leaders with multiple opportunities for sober reflection. Besides the worry for global staff in at-risk areas, organisations everywhere are also uneasily eyeing up supply chains, trade routes and international prospects as economic shocks and death tolls continue to dominate international headlines. 

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Four words that constitute today’s new normal. To lead in whatever capacity today is to occupy a context that lurches dizzyingly between hyper-vigilance and blinkered laissez-faire. Prepare for everything, all at once, all the time – or give up the reins of control completely. 

Neither, of course, are tenable (though the last four weeks alone may be enough to leave many Executive teams tempted by the latter). The balance that must now be struck is how to navigate the unknowable; to set direction, without destination; to become, borrowing Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s definition, ‘anti-fragile’: able to absorb shocks with ease and turn them into advantage. How to do all this while navigating your personal fears, hopes, strengths, and blind spots. And how, of course, to do all this through others – maybe five, maybe fifty thousand – each with their own complex reality to sail through as you seek to steady the ship. 

As the recent HRD Summit proved, the business world is alive to these profoundly liminal questions. What is the solution, it asked (over two days, multiple stages and feted thought leaders in the presence of more than a thousand UK leaders) to a world that can no longer be predicted?

VUCA was a term coined by the US military to breakdown and risk manage the deadly unknowables of war. Leaders at the Summit and beyond have long been urged to deploy similarly robust and carefully plotted defensive strategies. They must embrace agility; decentralise; become ‘emergent’. Importantly, they must select a philosophy, a method, a trademark of change. Then, they must swiftly embody and embed. 

At the HRD Summit, we talked about storytelling and narrative. Because while the language of change will come and go, the story of change will always stay the same.

Change is the essential human process. Second by second, it’s the thing we never stop doing; it’s how we’ve survived to become the dominant species on the planet. But it’s also the thing we mentally resist the most: prepped by our ancestral brains to seek the safety and efficiency of the known, the stable and the predictable. 

We’ve become dab hands at ‘embedding’. We have built an industry to design systems of change at great opacity, complexity and cost into which people are meant to fit. 

Along the way, we have forgotten to ‘embody’. 

Change starts inside your own mind. As leaders, this means your success in the VUCA world is largely a question of mindset. Yes, there are always myriad complicating factors; things that spin out far beyond the locus of your control. But in the VUCA world, it’s about what sits within the locus of your control, and what you do with those things, that counts. 

As Professor Richard Wiseman shows, this process starts by taking control of the story of change you tell yourself. Control becomes power when this story is visible in every action, every day. Power becomes empowerment when you can invite people into a shared narrative and give them the tools to shape their own story as you go on the journey together. 

To embody change is to lead change. To pay lip service to change is to fail. As Deborah Rowland emphasised in her keynote address, ‘if leaders stay stuck in their habitual response, so will their organisations’. 

The language of change will come and go, but the story will stay the same. And the story of change starts with you.