Lately a big topic of conversation with my friends is about the big changes happening to the work world for Westerners. One of the ideas is about the growing importance of “story.” It’s always been important; but stories and narratives are gaining more importance due to some big shifts in our world.
For many, many generations we told stories to each other within our tribes of extended family. During all that time that we were in small groups, we worked using our feet mostly for hunting, scavenging and wandering about. Then we started working with our backs during the agricultural age and again in the industrial age. Then along came the information age and we switched to working mainly with the left side of our brain – crunching numbers and setting up systems.
But now, most manufacturing is cheaper to have done somewhere in Asia. Plus if you can break a task down into a series of steps, now either a computer can tirelessly crunch through it or a well-educated person (lawyer, doctor, computer programmer…) in Asia will do it remotely and much cheaper than you will.
What’s a Westerner to do? Well, it’s time to shift again. Now Westerners need to focus on the things that your brain’s right side excels in, making connections and creating narratives. In other words, the stuff that can’t be done by a computer or a clever off-shore worker. Basically it’s storytelling. We’re moving more and more toward working by using the right side of the brain.
If you pull back far enough, the progression of work for Westerners looks like this: with our feet, with our backs, with the left brain, and now with the right brain. The good news is that humans have always told stories. Stories and narratives just didn’t seem as important during the heyday of the information age as they had before. But I think stories are back and they’re important. What’s your story?