Europa Bendig
Managing Partner STURMundDRANG
06.04.2022 | reading time: 3 minutes


New Narrative: A Monster in the House

This article first appeared in the 03/22 issue of "absatzwirtschaft".

As the new year unfolds, are you full of energy for big changes up ahead, for you and your company? Or does even pondering this question fatigue you? In a survey, 70% of Germans said their goal is to have less stress in their lives and spend more time with their family and friends. Work, competition, career, financial success ... narratives around these aspects of life appear not to be ascendant as we move forward in the year 2022.



We all love a good story, don’t we? For humans beings are creatures who by nature tell and listen to stories. And the world is a narrative continuously being rewritten. It can thus be very valuable to listen to those who research narrative transformation, who have pointed out a narrative now prevalent in our culture which can be called: “A monster is in the house.” In cataloguing what he sees as universal master plots, American author Blade Snyder identifies this one as a psychological thriller narrative hingeing upon fear of an unseen threat existing from within one’s own ranks or sphere. Like the creature in the movie Alien – the enemy is already on board the ship. The master plot may unfold in all kinds of situational settings: digitalization, climate disaster, virus pandemic, supply chain breakdowns, social media trolling ... just to name a few.

Professor Michael Müller is a narrative and transformation researcher who sees the ‘threats are everywhere’ as “one of the closed narratives that form a barrier to change within cultures and organizations.” I can only agree, from my own perspective as behavioral scientist, that while fear can compel people to change their behavior, it is poorly suited as a motivation and management tool, as it stifles personal drive and creativity.



"[…] while fear can compel people to change their behavior, it is poorly suited as a motivation and management tool, as it stifles personal drive and creativity.“



What sort of narrative, then, can take us forward ... onward and upward, so to speak? Consider for example the master plot of the quest, like the iconic, epic quest for the golden fleece from ancient Greek lore – which finds its reiteration in such tales as the Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz. As Snyder points out, key elements of this archetypal plot structure include “the road, the team, a prize”. A team of individuals with varying traits and characteristics sets out on an arduous journey, led on by a great hope that at times appears to slip beyond reach. Professor Müller sees this is an “open narrative” which companies and cultures can make use of to embark upon new departures. Behavioral research has demonstrated how visions and vivid renderings can affect people and alter their behavior. And as we are all aware, a new departure is what we need – to find a better, more regenerative and more social world.

The way forward seems to be rough and difficult to travel, such that for most of us the goal or personal “prize” we are questing for remains unattainable. No wonder we lack the necessary energy. Here, thus, are some of my ideas how the ‘golden fleece’ narrative structure could perhaps be utilized after all to generate energy for new departures:

1. Simply trying out things you wish for or ideas you have in some small way and observing what real fulfillment (the prize) results.

2. Assembling around you a heterogeneous team that exposes you to greater diversity, releasing new energies (the team).

3. Rather than setting big goals, taking initial steps into the ‘future present’ (the road).

I believe that when the monster is already inside your house, it can in fact be significantly easier to take such departures. Here’s wishing you a productive rest of the year as we move forward along our – sometimes intersecting – question paths.



This article first appeared in the 03/22 issue of "absatzwirtschaft".

Image references: Image 1: "Header" // Image 2: "Tired" // Image 3: "Monster" // Image 4: "Way"



Author: Europa Bendig

STURMundDRANG founder and General Manager Europa Bendig has been consulting on innovation processes for NGOs and international enterprises for 18 years, primarily in the luxury goods, health, services, beauty, living and social businesses. She specializes in cultural codes and narratives that give brands and portfolios cultural relevance and promote customer loyalty.


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