The Power of Narratives


4 minutes read

“Writing is nature’s way of letting you know how sloppy your thinking is.”

—  Dick Guindon

Problem Statement

I have been guilty of sloppiness in my thinking several times. This sloppiness was (and sometimes is) often reflected in conversations and meetings. Things are easier said than done – sloppiness of thinking influences decisions in the same way based on verbal discussions only.

How to overcome this sloppiness of thinking?
How to backup decisions with clarity of thoughts?


Jeff Bezos proposed Narratives according to with a focus to replace slide decks with write ups latter called Narratives.

What are Narratives

Narratives are text documents. Those documents focus on

  • collaboration about a problem statement at hand and solution approaches
  • documentation, not only about decisions potentially derived from solution approaches, but also about the ideation and discussion in the document that led to solution approaches

The 5-3-1 rule helps to structure a narrative document. The 5-3-1 rule in the context of narrative writing would be:

  • 5
    Formulate the problem statement in 5 sentences max. Make sure the audience is enabled to understand the issue you are describing
  • 3
    Outline 3 possible solutions max that potentially solve the described problem.
  • 1
    Select your proposed solution. Focus on the WHY this solution is the favorite one.

Tooling to write narratives

Google docs in particular these features:

are great to persist different point of views with a focus on collaboration and documentation.

Working collaboratively on narratives can be an async approach. That is great to incorporate different meeting schedules, locations and even time zones for all people involved.

Start of by aligning via narratives prior to meetings. Eventually certain meetings will become redundant as alignment happened via narratives already. As a bonus these instances of alignment are persisted in document form.

There will be cases, for sure, when collaborating via narratives highlights different opinions. The focus of the narrative follow up meeting could be on WHY there are different opinions and how to find a solution approach.


The power of Narratives is not simply that the concrete decision is recorded with a Narrative, rather the power of Narratives include the documentation of the process of alignment, the ebb and flow of discussion with the pros and cons of alternative solutions. Forging a clarity that is missing from the initial sloppy thinking.

Richard – thanks for your review!

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