F80pxtreeamiliarity may not always breed contempt. But it certainly encourages a sort of tired ‘been there, done that’.

The word ‘story’ is a case in point.

Rather like the season’s new coat, everyone is anxious to have ‘a story’. Brands seem to be constantly working and re-working their narrative. The most unlikely commercial organisations, even those not known for a culture of imagination (banks?), talk of their ‘story’.

The story has become another obligatory technique in every self respecting brand tool kit.

But don’t abandon the story yet.

There’s real power there.

What was the first novel? Was it Don Quixote? Robinson Crusoe? Moll Flanders?

Something creative and productive and strange happened around the time of the Glorious Revolution, over the last couple of decades of the 17th century and the first couple of decades of the 18th.

Stories before then were derived from classical myths, from biblical stories, from the known. And then something changed.

Defoe, for example. These were the first stories of the imagination, where reader and writer entered a contract with each other to suspend disbelief. To believe in possibility, something new, something that did not exist.

And at the same time, commercial life in England transformed itself. (In 1692 there were fewer than 20 companies in Britain. In 1695 there were more than 150).

This flowering of economic promise – not always production – included The Governor and Company of the Bank of England in 1694. This was pure story, originally a debt&promise-fuelled means of raising money for the King. For war.

Somehow, we wrenched our faith away from certainties such as land towards future promise, towards credit. From what existed to what might exist.

A story was created, believed in, and so became reality.

In a sense, our entire economy has grown over the centuries with the power of story.

Stories have magical power. Use wisely.

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