The power of ‘what if…?’

Nov 22, 2022 | Storytelling

A recent BBC Reel* drew me in instantly. I just had to click and watch. It was an environmental topic, and I am as engaged as possible. Not enough, but definitely engaged. But that is not my point here, my point is that it was the structure of the title that drew me in, as it suggested a new order, a new way of doing things that I hadn’t thought of before, beginning with the two simple words: ‘What if…?’

These two little words immediately invoke the idea of different, more desirable, possibilities. The ‘new bliss’, as Nancy Duarte calls it.

Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech is the most famous example of this.

We are contrasting what is, with what might be, encouraging a new (and better) way of doing things. Very different from the usual way of communicating which is:

X is the problem
Y is the process
Z is the resulting solution. 

Compare this simple example:

The team is finding it hard adjusting to being back in the office after lockdown (X), so we’re brainstorming solutions (Y) in the hope that everyone will feel better as a result (Z).

With this:

What if everyone in the team was able to find a way of working again, after lockdown, that was right for them and for the company?

Boom! Doesn’t the vibe feel different – more hopeful and more energising – with that second option?