When Jaws was released in 1975, beach attendance dropped across America. Even today the movie’s spine-tingling score can make us think twice about going in the water. Jaws influenced attitudes to the ocean, sharks and even movies themselves (it was the first summer blockbuster) and has never been more relevant than it is today.
As the virus tore through America, people drove to open-air cinemas to watch a movie about an invisible threat that shuts down the economy. The film went to No. 2 at the US weekend box office and people compared Donald Trump and Boris Johnson to the mayor who wouldn’t close the beaches (especially after it emerged Johnson once joked the mayor was the real hero of the film). The Wall Street Journal described Covid-19 as “the sequel to Jaws” and the parallels continue as we debate whether it is safe to go back in the water. Like all powerful stories – both fictional and factual – Jaws influences our beliefs and behaviours and helps us make sense of the world.
Influence is the ability to change how someone thinks or acts. This (as every leader knows) is not easy because we are ambivalent about change: we know it is necessary but we also know it is risky. Our natural fear of change protects us from reckless ventures but also causes paralysis preventing us from taking necessary actions. If you want to influence someone to embark on a change journey, you have to help them visualize what it will involve and you have to do it in a way that addresses their fears. That’s where stories come in: they transport us to a new reality and show what it will take – practically and emotionally – to achieve it. Thinkers from Aristotle to Joseph Campbell have observed that great stories are change journeys:-
Storytelling for MarketersThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Storytelling for LeadersMoby Dick
Storytelling For LawyersAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland