Football, Cricket and Change – Why Narrative matters!







I cannot seem to get over one particular article I read recently- ‘The Virat Kohli Paradox. It has nothing to do with business or change or technology but somehow it stayed with me. The article essentially looks at why Virat Kohli (the current Indian cricket team captain) does not appeal to the Indian cricket fans in the same way as ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ did. Explanation the article provides – ‘The Narrative and how it does or does not appeal to the audience’.

Why is it that we can relate to few things, people and stories more than others? Why do we allow some individuals to lead us and not others? Why do we get behind some movements but could not be bothered about others? Why do we rally behind few change initiatives but just resist others? I think the answer to these questions lies in the narrative.

For everyone out there who is not a cricket fan and doesn’t really care about Virat Kohli, let’s look at a different example, may be in football. Why do fans love to see an academy product or a ‘local lad’ playing in the league for the club? Why does a Harry Cane or a Steven Gerrard get the most love from Fans while the big money buys struggle to build connections? The answer again lies in the ‘Narrative’.

Now I did not grow up watching football but I am sure many football fans played football growing up and had that one dream – ‘ One day I want to play for my local league team’. Based on my own worship of Sachin Tendulkar, I can guess that as fans they see a Harry Cane or a Steven Gerrard or a John Terry as the one who gets to live their dream and that is the Narrative. They can relate to these players in a way that they can’t with others. They cannot relate to an equally remarkable narrative of a foreign player who immigrated to a foreign country and is trying to survive in an alien environment. Some of the foreign players do develop that special bond with fans but it takes special efforts and time. Without those efforts and time there would not be a Henry or a Zola…

In my own case, I can relate to Sachin Tendulkar because his narrative appeals to me. He was born in a family not so much different than my own. He believed in hard work, dedication and conquered the world just based on that. Now I will definitely never do that but Tendulkar gave me the belief that it can be done.

I guess I am yet to tell you why I am not able to get this particular article out of my head. I work in Change Management and my primary responsibility is to help people change. There are times when I am puzzled when people do not get behind a particular change. Everything seems to be logically correct but the change just does not appeal to the recipients. This particular article made me think that this had something to do with the ‘Narrative’.

An organisation introduces a number of changes in its environment but as a narrative only few appeal to the audiences. There only few changes that make the connection which makes individuals get behind the change. Every change has a narrative but may be organisations do not make enough effort to relate the narrative with the audiences. More often than not organisations do not answer the questions – ‘Why should I bother?’, ‘What is in it for me’, ‘What does this mean for me’.

Just like footballers, few changes come with the right narrative. These changes are things that people always wanted and rooted for. For others, those need special efforts and time. If time and efforts are on offer, those changes can also form a narrative that appeals to the recipients. Finally it all comes down to the narrative!


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