Creatively Entrepreneurial

with Carl Nordgren

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How to tell the right story

Carl Nordgren

Creative Populist, Author, Guide

Lessons Learned

Story is a knowledge management technology. It tells you what needs to be done, and why.

Be intentional about your language. Are you trying to ‘dominate’ a market, or ‘own’ it?

Make a declaration to see the world as an entrepreneur, and you will see the world differently.

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Lesson: Creatively Entrepreneurial with Carl Nordgren

Step #8 Intentionality: How to tell the right story

Part of intentionality underlying so much of this is the generative way has two components to it. There's a generative mindset and a generative toolbox. A generative mindset begins with the power of intentionality. If at this moment, right now, put the date down your piece of paper and declare that this moment, you're going to begin to see the world as a creatively entrepreneurial person sees the world. Make that intentional declaration, and if it's true, if it's authentic, if you mean that when you say that, you will in that very instant begin to see the world differently. You'll begin to see the world more consistent with a creatively entrepreneurial mindset.

Now all the great faiths understand this. All the great faiths when they are bringing you into their faith, when you are a student of their faith, when you're a pilgrim, a novice, at some point, you have to declare with intentionality that I am a Baptist, or that I am a Catholic, or I am a Muslim. At this point, you have to make an intentional declaration because they understand that in the moment of that intentional declaration, you'll begin to see the world more consistent with their faith narratives.

I don't have such a strict faith narrative, but in that moment of declaration, I am convinced that you'll begin to see the world as a creatively entrepreneurial person does, and even if that difference is only incremental, and of course it only will be incremental initially, there is great power in the increment. If you see an opportunity just a little bit differently than I see an opportunity, that might be the difference that makes a difference. That might be the difference that reveals something that hasn't been revealed to the rest of us.

There is the power of an increment, but there's an additional power of an increment, and that is if I keep intentionally winning the next increment, pretty soon I've accumulated quite a success. To be intentionally creatively entrepreneurial is to be creatively entrepreneurial especially when we remind ourselves that there is this natural quality within us that wants to express itself as a creatively entrepreneurial person does.

Another place where it's important to practice intentionality is in the language that we use. It's obvious to folks of course that our thoughts shape our words. Let's be mindful of how our words shape our subsequent thinking. There is a difference between having an approach that says, "I'm going to dominate a market," from the approach that I would be directed towards if I was going to own a market. When I owned a market, when I own something, I want to care for it. I want to nurture it. I want to cultivate it and I know that any investment I make into that which I own comes back to me. The best way to dominate a market is to try to own a market.

Another example of the differences between what I call something is when I see an opportunity, why so frequently will we talk about wanting to take advantage of that opportunity? Now taking advantage of an opportunity doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to take the best and leave the rest, but we would call that taking advantage of an opportunity. It doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to tilt the table and change the numbers such that the benefit flows towards me but we would certainly call that taking advantage of the opportunity.

Instead, when we see a creative opportunity, what if we were to say we're going to try to create advantage from that opportunity? Again, that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to nurture it and cultivate it and find good people to work on it with me and make sure that we're all really delighted by how we're working on this together, but it points me in that direction. Again, I get to win that next increment.

Intentionality in language is so important and it's also important when you're beginning to identify what's taking place, how I label it is going to subsequently influence the stories that I'm going to begin to tell, and boy, story is such an important quality for an entrepreneur. I teach story as if it were a knowledge management technology because it is exactly that. It is exactly a knowledge management technology. Story will not only tell us what it is that needs to be done, but it tells us how important it is to do it.

We've had the capacity for human language for somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 years. Anthropologists will demonstrate that our technologies before language are called "disposables." We did so little to that stone, so little to that stick that there was no point really in carrying it around with us. We could create it again as we needed in the moment. Then comes language. Then comes story and immediately thereafter come nets and come baskets and tailored clothing.

It's because the technology of story accelerated the development of other technologies because story, again, could not only capture the ingredients, the directions of how to build a net, but it could provide the reason why I want to build a net. If I've never built a net before and I'm living a subsistence, barely hanging on to my existence life, it's going to be very difficult for me to engage in any new behavior unless I understand that there's going to be great benefit from it.

The minute we begin to understand that story, how this incredible quality, we all became storytellers. If you know anything about the quality of neural plasticity, about how our brains become what we use our brains to be, our brains for 50,000 years have been shaped to be storytelling devices. When a group of people come together to work on a project for the first time, if you suggest to them that what you're doing is building a story, creating a brand-new story, it's most likely that their best aspects of their creative minds become released because our minds are storytelling devices.

Another really important quality of story that serves me as an entrepreneur is that if I see myself as a storyteller as an entrepreneur, that reminds me to see the marketplace not as a marketplace of customers, but rather as an audience. The usefulness of that in the early stages of my entrepreneurial effort is that it reminds me that there's no point in talking to this audience. There's no point in telling this audience anything unless I have their attention, and the best way to assure that I have their attention is to be attractive, and the best way to be attractive to an audience is to tell them their story.

If one of you wanted to go to NYU Law School and I began to tell you a story right now about how to get to NYU Law School, and as I told you that story, I got up and started to walk out the room, that student would get up out of her chair and follow me down the hall. They will work to help their story come true. When it is something of great significance to them that you're telling them, they'll lean into it. They'll work just as hard as you do to help that story come true. The entrepreneur who controls the story shapes the way the marketplace thinks about what's happening and attracts that market to their mission, to the outcome that they're looking to accomplish.

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