The Narrative Fallacy
Today I step into dangerous territory.
Over the summer I completed a fabulous online course called The Art of Reading.
One of the modules encouraged us to think critically about what we read and gave ideas on how to do that.
One item that stood out to me was the idea of the narrative fallacy.
I think the the course author, Shane Parrish is right.
There is something important at stake here for us when we prepare our communication.
The fallacy suggests that we are all wired for story – so far so good.
However, the challenge comes in creating our own narratives to justify things that have already happened, or predicting what will happen in the future.
Shane suggested that using story, rather than facts and logical reasoning, to create our view of the world and to make decisions is not only dangerous, but more common than we realise.
This is something that at Clarity First we wholeheartedly agree with.
Story is central to engaging busy audiences in complex information. Humanising it can also go a long way to doing that.
However, ‘story' – sometimes also referred to as ‘narrative – can be dangerous if not used well.
Shane's article The Narrative Fallacy suggests that although narrative makes us feel better, but is often a sham.
For example, Steve Jobs was told that because his adoptive father was a detailed-oriented engineer and craftsman, Steve Jobs also paid extra attention to the fine details of Apple designs. He denies this is the case, claiming his own personality and motivations as being more important drivers.
He was also asked whether his quest for perfection came from an idea that he needed to prove himself, given he had been adopted out. He claimed this was patently false, and that his adoptive parents made him feel special regardless of what he achieved.
Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan) had a similar story, and fact checked his hunch that his professor had no justification in attributing his ability to see luck and to separate cause and effect to his Lebanese heritage.
Click the link below for suggestions to help you think critically and assess whether a narrative can be trusted to accurately draw cause and effect links or whether it is just a great story.
>> Click here to read more <<
If you want to take these ideas a step further to learn how to tell a story that is both logically sound AND engaging, click here to learn more about the Clarity First Program.
This month by month program enables you to learn at your own pace as you work towards turning your communication skills into an asset.
Keywords: critical thinking, storytelling
PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY
I love what I do.
I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.
This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.
I leverage 25+ years' experience including
- learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
- being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
- helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
- seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
- watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue
My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.
Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.
Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com
(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.