Stories we tell

With all the attention on the rising cost of college, and the relatively surprising success of the Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign among younger Americans, it's easy to draw the conclusion that America's youth are ready to be saved from the burden of their student loans.

Surprisingly, a recent survey by Junior Achievement found that only 11% of  teenage respondents think the government should pay off debt if a student can't afford to do so.  In fact, 65% say it is the borrower's responsibility.  These teens are getting the message about the impact of debt, however, and only 8% say they will borrow as much as they need for tuition, regardless of cost.

 The lessons in this:

  • Public perception is shaped by narratives and stories, even if those stories aren't supported by facts.
  • Some business decisions are based on hard facts.  Some are based on soft perceptions.  Know which are which because they aren't always the same.
  •  Stories shape behavior. Whether you are seventeen or seventy.

Does the story of your organization match the reality? Are you telling your story? Are your employees? Are your customers?

Are your competitors?