Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Christina Blacken, Founder and Chief Narrative Strategist of The New Quo, located in Brooklyn, NY, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Studies by neurobiologists and cognitive psychologists estimate unconscious habits drive an average of 50% of our daily activities - influencing how we think, what we say, how we work, and how we connect with one another. This may be ok for routine activities, but when it comes to building diverse relationships, critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication, unconscious habits get in the way. I founded The New Quo, a leadership development, and equity consultancy, to help company leaders disrupt automatic thinking patterns and create more conscious and inclusive practices, habits, and goals through their narrative intelligence, which is the psychological power of story to change behavior. I create transformational learning experiences on the topics of leadership, equity, and behavior change and help emerging and current leaders to use behavioral-science-based narrative techniques to disrupt bias, build better relationships, and communicate new ideas with deeper connection and influence to achieve status-quo-breaking goals.

I've applied this methodology to various equity problems, from social media content moderation to creating equity goals and practices for every area of a business to helping companies create more inclusive language in their content and services. I've trained over 11,500 leaders across 9 industries.

Tell us about yourself

My family was part of the Great Migration of Black Americans from the Southern region of the U.S. and migrated from Memphis, Tennessee, to Utah in the 1950s and 1960s. I grew up in Utah, and my childhood of being a minority religiously, politically, and racially taught me how powerful stories can be in influencing how we treated one another and inspired the work I do now.

In my career, before starting The New Quo, I spent 10 years using storytelling to change behavior in various roles and industries, from motivating 300k young people to get involved in various social causes, to closing 6.5 million in sales with various teams I worked with all through using narrative and building story campaigns. Every time I began to shift my own narratives and beliefs about myself, my work, and my life and shared that with others, dramatic growth and change occurred.

I founded The New Quo, which is a leadership and equity consultancy that uses behavioral-science-based communication and storytelling strategies to help organizations and individuals transform behavior and build inclusive communities. I began to teach the power of narrative intelligence as a radical tool of change that everyone can access and leverage for personal transformation and reaching their full potential as leaders after seeing its impact on my corporate life and personal life.

Do you have daily rituals for work / wellness / fitness / mindfulness?

Meditation: I practice different forms of meditation daily to reduce stress, rumination, and distraction. One is box breathing - where you breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for another four counts, and breathe out for four counts. This technique has been shown in research to significantly reduce stress and improve focus. Another type of meditation I engage with a few times a day is open awareness meditation, where you just focus on the environment in the present, taking in the sights, sounds, sensations, and thoughts as they come up. This is great for creativity, reducing anxiety, and just being aware of the current moment. The last one I use from time to time is guided meditation or sound baths, which help with relaxation and sleep.

Writing: In all of my training and courses on leadership and DEI, I encourage self-reflection exercises because they are a powerful practice for bringing the unconscious to the conscious and for processing experiences and emotions. I take notes of ideas, emotions, reflections, and observations throughout my day as a ritual to improve my positive thinking and self-awareness and to deal with tough experiences. I also read back on my old writings to reflect on past experiences and challenging emotions to see how I have progressed or changed. 

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

In 2020 Nextdoor, a social app that connects neighbors, put out an RFP asking for support in the challenges of moderating content in our continuously polarized and hostile social climate. I created and am still managing an Inclusive Moderation Course to train and support their moderators, designed from my training IP. The course helps Nextdoor moderators facilitate respectful conversations by learning the history and psychology of both conscious and unconscious bias and gives them best practices for building inclusive, respectful, and kind communities—both on Nextdoor and in the real world.

I use my performance background to sing, entertain, and inform course participants with tools to build compassionate and empathetic communications into their interactions with each other in their neighborhoods, as well as strategies to better recognize and respond to bias and microaggressions in posts.

Over 37k individuals have signed up to take the course, with over 10k fully completing the course, which has been rated a 4.2 out of 5 stars, with 94% of participants rating the course material good-excellent. This is no small feat when discussing very challenging topics like bias, race, and microaggressions with participants of all different demographics, ages, political leanings, and racial backgrounds. Stanford University's research arm, SPARQ, has been involved in evaluating the impact of the course and found that the course has increased moderators' abilities to recognize bias in online conversations (e.g., posts that may include the use of microaggressions and stereotypes), increases their sense of personal agency to combat any conscious or unconscious bias that they may see, and improves their ability to react and moderate any online conversations that use biased language or experiences. I'm really proud that an idea I developed is now having a measurable impact on an issue that will only continue to grow as we rely more and more on technology in how we communicate and interact with one another.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The hardest thing is also the best thing - uncertainty. Entrepreneurship feels like taking off in a half-built airplane made with toothpicks, powered by Flintstone-style yabba-dabba-do-foot-grit that you hope transforms into a shiny, streamlined airbus that lands beautifully at an unknown destination in the end. It's a constant dance of planning, strategy, and also pivoting when unexpected changes occur. Being a business owner means you have to have a tolerance for newness, be pushed out of your comfort zone, and refine your desires, goals, and habits on a regular basis in ways that can stretch you to your limit and also help you grow on so many levels.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Fear is a useful emotion in helping us avoid certain risks and pain, but if it's your main lens for making decisions, it can be suffocating. We're taught all these "shoulds,' and adopt a fear-based view of the world, worried about every decision and action we make. Using fear as your main decision-making tool is like trying to run a marathon while wrapped in a California king-size comforter blanket with no shoes. Dig deeper to discover what your true values are outside of fear. Is it creativity? Community? Connection? Use those values to organize your day-to-day life, and you'll feel a deeper sense of purpose, contentment, and alignment and be more able to build something you're proud of and care about.
  2. You'll achieve greatness by sowing seeds -- share your ideas about the questions and problems you're insatiably curious about solving and tell people with values aligned. Those conversations will lead to unexpected connections and opportunities that will propel you forward. You can't control the exact outcome, but you can control sharing your ideas and seeing what grows.
  3. Infinite growth isn't a good goal; regenerative impact is. We live under the pressure of what I call the King Kong effect, i.e., success means collecting and generating more and more and more with a never-ending moving goalpost to measure success. Cancer is the unfettered growth of unhealthy cells in the body that take over healthy cells. Our obsession with the constant extractive expansion is like cancer leading to our individual and collective destruction. I desire the radical imagination of new goals - ones that are regenerative and impactful instead of extractive, especially in the business world. It's what I strive for personally, and I encourage every client and colleague to do the same.
    Questions to ask yourself - are you measuring and valuing how well your employees feel empowered to make decisions, respected, and treated fairly? Do you understand your business decisions' environmental impact and how you can reduce harm in your production process? Are your everyday actions in alignment with your core values? Those are far more interesting and impactful things to strive for in your business beyond profit.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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