Insight article

Being part of something bigger than ourselves

What makes a great story: #2 Being part of something bigger than ourselves

My last post on what makes a great story talked about the need for an element of struggle and endeavour. The next critical success factor focuses on the human need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves.

Humans are social, tribal beings. Being a member of a club, sports team, religion, political party, or supporting a movement of any kind not only helps define and reinforce our identity and sense of belonging, but gives us a purpose – something we can contribute to along with others for a greater good.

We often use the ‘NASA’ story as an example. The story goes that J F Kennedy was visiting NASA, and asked a cleaner what he did there. “I’m here to help put a man on the moon” was the answer. He clearly believed that the part he played in achieving the bigger mission was important, albeit small. Similarly, an Olympic athlete is part of a team who, behind the scenes, all contribute to his or her success – and that team plays a bigger, patriotic role in the wider Olympic movement.

In business, we work in teams, where everyone needs to feel that they play a part in a collective effort to realise an organisation’s mission and vision. They need to feel valued – that they matter, that they belong, that what they do counts. They need to feel that they’re heroes, however small the part they play. Through team dialogue, listening and encouraging ideas for new and better ways of working, leaders can and must nurture this feeling of belonging, personal contribution and ownership.

Your strategic or change narrative should act as a framework within which people can play out their small acts of heroism. And telling stories of success and achievement which clearly link back to the narrative will reinforce progress, build belief and encourage others to follow. With a clear call to arms, your strategic narrative will sit at the heart of this movement of change – a symbol of hope, ambition and commitment to a brighter future.

Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

Alison Esse

Co-founder and Director