Twice yesterday I heard that apparently inspirational tale of the janitor at NASA who told Kennedy he was “helping to put a man on the Moon”. The more I hear it the less I believe it. In fact I think there’s something a little deceitful about the narrative if not just plain useless.
I had quite a bit of thinking constructed in my head then I found that someone had already done a pretty good and recent job here. I’d heard the Stone Mason story before also.
This narrative is supposed to drive us to think of a connected vision and purpose. A connected vision and purpose that applies from the bottom of the organisation to the very top. It’s given as an encouragement to inspire with something simply powerful throughout the organisation. It’s an attractive sentiment, especially in the Leadership space.
So I really have to question…
Why does an apparent story from the 1960s and another from 300 years earlier appear to be the only stories of such inspiration?
If the sharing of these two narratives was truly inspirational then wouldn’t we hear more similar stories of inspiration?
Why do these stories focus on one person telling how they were inspired when surely the moral is to inspire many?
What were the mechanisms that actually inspired these people as isn’t it that leadership that should inspire our action?
Is the context, purpose & vision surrounding these two stories actually more attractive than who was inspired by whom?
Ignoring the facts of the situations, I don’t even think these two similar stories stand up well as either a fable or a parable. All they seem to do is either put a smug grin on speakers faces as they tell the story or make the audience nod their heads and carry on regardless.
So despite their apparent popularity and cuteness, are they really useless narratives?