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Small Story = Big Empathy

With storytelling, smaller is bigger. I recently met a screenwriter and he told me about a project he’s working on, a cross-cultural romance. In his story, a feminist from the West falls in love with a chauvinist from the East. He was having trouble creating the backstories of these characters, why they are together despite their differences. We kept coming up against sticking points and the story wasn’t working.

I asked him why he needed to tell this story? He said when he was 19, he met a woman who changed the trajectory of his life. He was what he called a ‘thinker’. He hadn’t seen much of the world and was very sheltered. He met a woman who was adventurous, what he called an ‘explorer’. They become very, very close. And because of her, he experienced a lot of things for the first time, going to clubs, meeting people from different sexual orientations and different worldviews.

She changed the way he lived his life. They were so close that they would spend hours and hours and hours talking. Their relationship was a platonic and yet closer than a normal friendship. He loved her, but he knew he wasn’t in love with her and that one day the relationship would end. Eventually, it did as they went their separate ways in life.

The story he wanted to tell was this process of getting to know her, of exploring the world through her eyes. He felt he owed her a lot and he would never forget her.

It was the story of a ‘thinker’ and an ‘explorer’ who fell in love but didn’t end up together.

His story wasn’t about a big culture clash and diametrically opposed worldviews. It was a coming of age story where someone learns new things about themselves. And through that process understands what they need in life and in a future partner. In this story, two people realised that even though they loved each other and grew together, they were on different paths. This is a big step in a person’s maturity.

It’s something that we’ve all experienced. We have all learned from a relationship that ultimately has no future. It’s a beautiful moment of growth. We go through our lives owing a lot to those people and experiences.

This is a universal moment, and it’s going to connect very deeply with an audience. One of his goals is to create a story that is cross-cultural. This hits the mark, many cultures around the world have these coming of age situations.

He went from telling a big grand story full of drama and tension to a beautiful contained moment in time that was authentic. One that many would believe and connect with because it is true and they had a similar experience.

How does this relate to the world of business stories? A very common thing I hear is, why would anybody care about my story? We tend to discount our own stories because they aren’t always a big grand adventure. This could not be more wrong, the power is in the small moments of authentic emotion someone else can connect with.

This is the power of empathy.

These small empathic connections transcend time, space, culture, everything. Moments of empathy are crucial to telling a story about a new product or service. Critical to telling a story to break down silos between different departments. The perfect way to explain a cultural shift or change within an organisation.

It’s small, not big. It’s real, not fantastic. This doesn’t mean don’t dream big. Create an ideal future state you want to inhabit after a new project or service has launched. Paint the grand vision of where innovation is taking us. But among the big dreams, there has to be small pinpoints of authentic emotion. Truthful connections are the glue that holds the grand vision together.

This is why narratives are so powerful. Stories are your day to day and the narrative is the future. The narrative is the future place that you want to inhabit together.

Good stories are a collection of small moments that add up to empathetic connection, to inspire, connect and build trust to bring your audience into your ideal future state.

Don’t be afraid of your own story and don’t be afraid of the small things. Even if the vision is grand, it’s the intimate emotions that build the empathetic connection you need to make your story something you can leverage to meet your business goals.

This is how culture is changed, built and created. This is how new products and services are launched. This is how innovation solves problems and propels solutions forward.

It’s through empathy. It’s the small moments. It’s the beautiful things.

Story: A Tool For Design Lead Innovation


Once upon a time there was a president who was known primarily by his initials, JFK. He and the nation he represented was upset that Russia was beating them in a competition called the space race.

Every day the USA and Russia ran against each other to be the ‘first’ when it came to exploring outer space. Russia had sent the first cosmonaut into space. Since that first was taken, he decided that the USA would be the first nation to send a person to the moon. 

One day he delivered a speech to inspire all in the land to dream as big as he did.

“We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

 NASA and the government and many, many others worked for seven years to turn that statement into a reality.

Because of that they worked and worked and worked until one day, a man called Neil stood on the moon and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Until finally they learned that all innovations start with a vision for a future. If that vision is stated clearly and shared with passion that future can become reality.

Does this story sound familiar? Yes of course it does, it is the story of the space race in the ’60s that resulted in the first moonwalk. A dream that has long fascinated humanity and finally one day became reality.

That is not the only thing that should feel familiar, let’s examine the story structure itself. If you have seen any Pixar movie, you would have seen this sequence played out –

Once upon a time there was __________________

Every day, ________________________________

One day __________________________________

Because of that, ____________________________

Until finally _______________________________

Pixar uses this formula to tell all of its stories. The character and plot changes, the structure is the same.

For anyone working in innovation, working within an established structure to produce vastly different outcomes should feel familiar. Innovation projects work with its own framework, it is known as the double diamond of design lead innovation.

Story is an core part of the design process.

The double diamond creates a framework for innovators to solve complex problems in a process focused manner. What if there was a structure of gathering and telling stories that strategically worked within the double diamond process of innovation? What if I could you that such a framework exists? But first, a story…

Why Innovation Needs Stories

Innovators are at their core of their beings’ explorers. They are willing to go where no one has gone before, to visualise a future that others would say was impossible and make it their job to make those crazy visions into a reality.

How do you make a new future feel real? We must be able to state our goals as a vision with a mission for the future. We then must be able to connect the dots between where we are today and our desired future state.

In 1805 the explorers Louis and Clark were looking for inland waterways to connect the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean in the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Their mission was to explore the unknown territory, establish trade with the first nation people and affirm the sovereignty of the United States in the region.

Every day on their journey they wrote in their journals the things they did, the places they saw and what they learned. This helped them understand not only where they had been, but where they were going. These stories gave their journey meaning. The mission included establishing trade with the first nations people, in order to do that we must record stories about the people they meet so they can share all of the important information back to the US government.

Let’s dissect this exploration into three different story tools that slot into the innovation process.

Using The Ancient Wisdom of ‘Story’ To Shape Our Future

Innovators are the explorers of the new world and not the new world as in Christopher Columbus discovering America. The new world of the future, the world that is yet to come. The wisdom of our ancestors is important for shaping our future. They intrinsically understood and used the power of storytelling to navigate the world, because well, there was nothing else. Story was the most powerful tool on the planet, and what guess what it still is!

Bold statement, but true, I will lay out the process below:

Creating the Future Ideal State with Strategy Narratives

  • Establish your grand Vision and Mission For The Future, when JFK declared America’s vision to set foot on the moon, he was making a stance to inspire the nation.
  • This vision is co-created with the whole team and ideally the organisation
  • This is critical to get buy-in from the greater organisation, it answers the question of what we are working towards together and creates the critical empathic buy-in is necessary to move a project forward

Building Proposals and Progress Updates with Storytelling

  • Creating simple story-driven content as opposed to a long report that is hard to understand, read and digest. Stories create accessible, interesting and digestible content. This keeps the team and organisation abreast of the changes as they are happening.
  • To motivate your team or organisation, people must see progress to feel inspired to continue through the murkiness of exploration. Remember the journals of Lewis and Clark? This is exactly the same concept! Reflecting on the day to day creates meaning and provides insights. What are we doing? Are we headed in the right direction? And most importantly the meaning behind why we are on the journey.

Gathering Deep Customer and Coworker Insights with Short Antidotal Style Stories

  • Check-In interviews with team members who are actively using the innovations in their work. This is key to chronicling the ongoing stories for use in reports and other updates
  • All explorers must understand and share learnings along the journey. It is impossible to achieve great things if you are not aware of all the details. Think of the level of detail that the engineers had to operate under to get to the moon. Without computers. Without the intimate knowledge of every step from all key players, they would not be able to understand what went right and what went wrong.

And Then What Happened?

According to master storyteller and novelist Neil Gaiman, the most magical phrase in storytelling is, ‘And then what happened?’

This a magical phrase because it means you have the audience hooked. And now I am hoping that you are asking the same of the process outlined above. So now what happens?

I will be presenting a talk with a special collaborator, Marco Regis, in Melbourne in June on this topic. I would love to send you the details and invite you along. Simply fill out the formand I will be in touch.

Or for a one on one chat, get in touch here, I always love talking story!


Organisational Narratives – Creating the Vision For An Ideal Future State

The future can feel like a scary unknown. A key challenge for businesses implementing a change program or innovation project is being able to project what a new ideal future looks like after the major milestones of a change project has been completed. How do you chart the course for a new way forward to engage employees, customers, partners and stakeholders in the journey?

An essential component to creating this vision is a strong organisational narrative – an audience-focused story of the planned journey from where you are to where you need to be… and the part everyone plays creating this new future state.

To create the path from today to tomorrow, a well-constructed narrative must not only define the future, it must also bring it to life. The best map in the world can only get us somewhere if we have a destination in mind. Similarly, without a clear vision of the future, we will never reach it.

The Future Is Now

As hard as we strive and plan for the future, it is always one tick of the second hand away. The future never arrives. It is always excoriatingly the present moment and the present moment only.

How do we plan for something that is always one step away? As we experience our present from moment to moment how do we ensure that we are moving by increments into the future that we want? By co-creating the story of where we want to be based on our direct actions today.

Co-Create Your Narrative

If you think of your organisation as a novel your narrative would be the title and the chapters would be made of stories from a cast of characters. The characters that come together to create the stories of the business do so through their work and roles. The stories don’t just come from the leadership team, they come from across the entire organisation. When gathering stories to create your narrative it is important to gather stories from every business unit and section.

To create a believable and achievable future to move into it is important to gather the stories from across the organisation for a desirable future. Collecting the stories of what is happening now is essentially understanding the place we are starting from to move into the future we want.

We run co-design storytelling sessions to collect these stories, looking for the best ones that emotionally capture the end result of an ideal future state. This is our primary tool to help an organisation identify, articulate and disseminate their innovation narrative, and then use it to create and promote key messages and produce collateral such as videos and communication materials.

Crafting and sharing organisational narratives, taps directly into people’s deeply-rooted need for stories. They enhance connection with employees and customers to engage them fully in your change journey.

Now that we know what stories we are working with, we start the visioning process. The process, simply put is finding the best story from what is happening now and then incorporating it into the new ideal future state. This makes the future feel not so far away, identifiable and achievable.  The emotional content, themes, and desires of today become the flesh that wraps around the bare bone goals of tomorrow.

Show, Don’t Tell

We have an end goal, we have a story that describes how this journey feels once we get to the end of it and now, we need to give it life. Life in the form of a video, a speech or content to deploy these messages over time throughout the organization.

Remember to show your story don’t tell it. First, we must define what ‘telling’ is. An example of ‘telling’ is a business goal portrayed as a dot point on a PowerPoint presentation.

  • Embrace new ways of working to create growth and cross-collaboration between teams to create new innovative solutions

Now let’s use story ‘showing’ to portray new ways of working in a story.

  • New ways of working is more than creating a Google-style campus with indoor slides and swing sets, it is creating space for well-being, mental health and flexibility to work your way. During our co-working trial phase, an interesting collaboration happened between our design and legal team. We moved the two different teams out of their walled separate offices and sat them in an open plan collaboration space. The legal team overheard the design team heatedly trying to solve a problem with signage on our new floor space designs. Tom from legal stood up and cleared his throat. He was able to step in and offer his knowledge regarding the size the sign had to be. This small conversation saved changes and extra tasks later in the project simply because the teams were aware of what each other were working on. This is just one of the benefits that we are going to see more of in the future.

This turns a mere goal for the future into a story of the future. It has a message about what is waiting for us when we get there. The message should be emotive, rich with details and feel tangible.

Finding the right story to ‘show’ your staff, clients and stakeholders the unique future they are moving into not only saves time, it inspires and motivates people to move into this positive future state. This is why story ‘showing’ is critical to make the ideal future state not only achievable but desirable.

The Future Comes Slowly

The process of creating the narrative of your ideal future state takes time. It is a process like any other and needs resources and time. Once the stories have been co-designed and set into motion, it becomes the momentum that is needed to drive and inspire change.

Curious about how a narrative can work for your innovation or change project? Email us to schedule a chat!

Why is ‘Just Do It’ more than a tagline, how is it a Narrative?

In this examination, I deconstruct Nike’s Narrative of ‘Just Do It’. We look at how this simple statement acts as a bridge between its external communications and it’s internal communication framework of Mission, Vision and Values. A good narrative does that for businesses. It unifies the vision of what drives people internally within the company and then invites their customers and clients through their marketing channels to join in that vision. This creates a seamless experience and places their customer center stage. Not only is ‘Just Do It’ a marketing tagline. It makes the Nike customer the main protagonist of their stories.

Narrative and Tag Line: Just Do It

Definition: What is a narrative? A narrative is an un-resolvable statement that drives a collection of stories forward.

Why is ‘Just Do It’ more than a tagline, why is it a Narrative?

Because it is a statement with no answer. It is open-ended and it is up to the viewer or listener to fill in the blanks.

Let me elaborate, if I said to you out of the blue, just do it. Your answer could be any number of things:

“Just do what?”

“For how long?”

“Why?”

You would have no idea what I was talking about.

But in the context of a story about sports or an active lifestyle, it could mean anything from –

Just get off the couch and go for a walk

Sign up for that Marathon

You can win this competition

The list goes on and on…

And that is the point!

This is how Nike has been able to use the same tagline for so long, it can evolve with the brand.

Simple open-ended taglines can also be a narrative. And a narrative is what lifts a brand from a product or service into a movement.

That is their external marketing. Let’s look at how that relates to their internal communication structure. How does the narrative work with the brand’s Vision, Mission, and Values?

A good narrative should be able to sit at the very top of the Vision, Mission and Values. It shelters them like the roof of a house and holds all of it together. Let’s examine the components of Nike’s internal communications structure and see how it relates to its external brand statement of ‘Just Do It’.

Vision Statement
Definition: A Vision Statement is a dream for a future.

Nike’s vision statement is ‘To remain the most authentic, connected, and distinctive brand.” The business continues to apply this vision statement to the way it tells stories and sells its products. This vision statement was emphasised in the corporation’s global growth strategy for 2015.

Let’s dissect the following words of Nike’s corporate vision statement:

  1. Authentic
  2. Connected
  3. Distinctive

Nike wants to be seen as real, have multiple touch points with their customers and be unique. This mission statement also uses the word, remain. This is key in understanding that they already see themselves as the market leader and in the vision for the company’s future they are going to continue to hold their space.

A good vision statement should represent an ideal future, a place that cannot be reached and should always be strived for.

Mission Statement
Definition: A mission statement reflects the day to day strategic plans that a company or business makes to continually move towards their view for the future represented in the vision statement.

Nike Inc.’s corporate mission is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” The company further states that everybody is an athlete, based on Nike founder Bill Bowerman’s statement, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” This mission statement represents the company’s strategic goal of reaching out to the global leisure and sports footwear, apparel and equipment market. The following main components are in Nike’s corporate mission statement:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Innovation
  3. Every athlete in the world

It is important here to note what has been left out. They do not mention footwear, apparel, and equipment anywhere. This is a wise strategic move if they wish to provide services in addition to products in the future. For example, smart sportswear with monitoring and feedback through software may be a core service in Nike’s future.

The point here is that there is room to grow and move.

A good mission and vision statement should not be revised every year. It should have enough room to grow so it stays true for the foreseeable future. It should be as short as possible so it is easy to remember and repeat.

For a business to be a truly powerful communicator it must co-create their future with their clients and customers, a cohesive narrative is what holds it all together.

The question now is does ‘Just Do It’ sit cohesively at the top of the framework we just explored? I would answer yes. ‘Just Do It’ does encourage authenticity and connection. If we look at the Vision statement it is inspirational and does provide room for innovation.

Want to learn more about how your business narrative can work for you? Get in touch for a free consultation.

Can Advertising Spend Buy You Love?

“Anyone can pay for something,” was a sage piece of dating advice I was given a long time ago.

Beatles might have said it best when they said –

“I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love”

This advice has served me well. So well in fact that I can see its relevance everywhere.

Let’s apply this advice to marketing. Anyone can spend money to get in front of prospective customers and clients with paid promotions. But no amount of paid advertising can buy love in the form of a loyal fan base.

Love is rare, it is hard to come by in any context in life. How do we facilitate it in the bottom line driven realities of the business world? By building trust and empathy by being human.

Digital marketing relies on data. That data is used to create content and content is used to create engaging ads.

Data is only half of the picture. The other half is empathy.

There are analytics and algorithms galore, but they cannot replace authentic human connection. Digital agencies tell their customers how much they need to spend to get in front of as many eyes as possible in their target market. This works for a while, but if you don’t pay attention to the other side of the equation, you will always have to pay for attention. And the cost of paying for this attention can eventually impact the profit from sales.

We use a different approach: we focus on organic growth fuelled by the stories of your business. Stories by their very nature build empathy, create connections and brand loyalty.

Let’s go back to the beloved Beatles classic –

“Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love”

You may hear John singing these words in your mind now. It is a story about how true love is worth more than a diamond. A story where without the underlying love a diamond is just a rock.

The same is true for marketing. Creating content that puts human stories in front of other humans results in a connection that impact business growth. Authenticity draws your clients back again and again to a relationship built on trust and understanding.

Focus on the love, even though it takes longer to build. And yes, sometimes it needs a bit of a push to get things moving.

But ultimately, LOVE is created by a connection. Charting that connection through the shared stories of wins from your clients and customers creates momentum. As each story emerges to complete the larger picture, the tendrils of connection branch out into the world. The protagonists of each story have their own fan base. Taking control of the narrative as it unfolds means that all roads eventually lead back to you. Connection can only build more connection. We understand this and harness this power for organic marketing growth.

Marketing communication is a delicate balance of organic and paid. We believe in the power of listening to your fans and telling their stories. Explore the stories you have to tell and then show them to your community; they will love you for it.

A Story About The Power Of Story

“Don’t ever underestimate the power of a story. Even if the story has to do with bacterial infections and chickens,” Josh Muccio, host of The Pitch.

The Pitch from Gimlet Media showcases founders of start-ups as they sell the story of their business to a panel of investors. This podcast illustrates the real-world application of what a good story does for a business.

In this episode, a scientist Amado Guloy is trying to explain how his startup Rex Animal Health combines farm animals and big data. His explanation focused on data, science, and numbers. The investors interjected every few seconds struggling to understand what his business did until he told the following story.

“Rex can reduce the risk of disease, improve the treatment of health problems, and ultimately deliver more animals from farm to table. I’ll just give you a use case of something that we did. There were chickens with a high incidence of really bad bacterial infection. And unfortunately, a lot of the drugs weren’t working because it was an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So, we took a step back and looked at the data in total. We realised the ones that got an infection, got it through a skin lesion. Long story short, we found out it was genetic and the chickens that got it had that deficiency.”

The investors let out a collective “Ohhhh!” as the light switched on for them. That story explained why Rex exists, what it does, and now they’re ready to do what they do best. Start poking holes in the business.

We like to imagine that investors are only interested in numbers, plain and simple. But they need a short and simple story to give those numbers meaning. A concise story helps create the value of the business, especially if you are looking for investment.

Storytelling is really story-selling. Showing people with a clear story helps your customers, clients and coworkers will understand what you do and why they need it.

Don’t let storytelling be a struggle, join me at General Assembly in Melbourne on March 13th, 2018 to Discover Your Business Narrative.

Learn Storytelling: Set The World On Fire Like Elon Musk

 

With the launch of The Boring Company, Elon Musk shows us he is all about the underground, including his marketing. The Boring Company is developing high-speed travel tubes to help ease inter-city traffic. Also, you can buy a flamethrower on the site. Yep, a flamethrower with the Boring Company logo on the side. Is anyone struggling to make the cognitive leap between a flame-based toy and a high-speed car travel tube?

Want to learn to market like Elon? Sign up here for my free webinar on “Storytelling: How To Dream and Market Like Elon”.

What is this stunt with the flamethrowers all about? He is not looking for funding, the project is privately funded according to the FAQs. If a Flamethrower isn’t really your vibe, you could also purchase a hat with the Boring Company logo. I say could as in past tense, because everything has sold out.

Sold out. Yes, that is right, 50,000 hats gone. As far as the flamethrower is concerned it is $500 to place a pre-order. As to the total amount of pre-orders available, no one is totally sure.

There is a lot of speculation as to why a company that is ‘boring’ tunnels underground to solve growing problem of traffic is selling flamethrowers. At 500 dollars a pop, if they sell, 20,000 that is a solid $10,000,000. A fantastic way to crowdfund a project without giving anyone any actual ownership in the project.

So, assuming this all happens, what has Elon actually sold?

A story.

This is why Elon is an exceptional person. He wants to send us into outer space, underground and to Mars. None of these things have eventuated yet. But the fact that he is consistently able to sell the dream of what is possible and what is to come illustrates his powerful grasp of storytelling.

What does a good story do? It captures the audience’s hearts and minds. What is the story link between flamethrowers and tunnel-based travel? I cannot tell you. Maybe it will become apparent in time.

But the story he was slowly building with a series of tweets starting last year was all it took to get the ball rolling and launch the not so boring, Boring Company.

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 1.16.38 pm

He is giving people a narrative to go with the Flamethrower. A flamethrower on its own, confusing, a flamethrower with a hilarious ‘rumour’. Genius!

Elon is often described as enigmatic. A perfect character for a good story. A crafty tale that keeps you coming back for more, is one that is open to interpretation. If it is too straightforward with no mystery to solve, the next shiny story that comes along will steal our attention.

Will we ever know what the link is between Flamethrowers and high-speed travel via tunnels? Probably not and I am not sure I want to know.

In order to consistently sell the ‘dream’ of what something could be, or of what is to come, it is better to leave it open-ended.

This is the best way to sell dreams. Fire up the creativity and the imagination of the audience and then sell their own vision back to them. Even when the projects will take years and the combined belief of millions of people.

We must all dream together to make the future a place we want to live. Whether Elon’s version of the future is the right version or the best version doesn’t matter. What does matter is he is telling the stories of the future he wants to see.

In the future, marketing will be less about how to capture attention. The future of marketing is capturing the imagination. This includes broadening your reach with the city you are planning on building the first tunnel in. Local Politicians in LA are now thinking about banning the toy flamethrower, see the statement from councillor Santiago below. And in the process, more people in LA might learn about the large-scale public transportation solution. Well played Elon, well played.

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 1.35.46 pm

That is what Elon Musk is good at. Capturing the imagination of the masses. Getting ordinary Joes thinking that traveling to outer space is something that is accessible to anyone, not just astronauts. Seeing the power of traveling in a car through a tube underground. Living on Mars.

This will not happen unless enough people believe that it is true. The future is like Tinkerbell, if enough people believe, clapping hands is probably optional, it will become reality. Or for the more pragmatic, Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way, you are right.”

Capturing the imaginations of your clients, customers and fans is the marketing of the future. And a good story doesn’t have to be clear-cut. In fact, the keys to a good story are tension, interpretation and a clear message.

How do you sell something no one can see or experience if you first don’t sell the dream.

Want to learn to market like Elon? Sign up here for my free webinar on “Storytelling: How To Dream and Market Like Elon”.

What are you waiting for? The future?

The future is made entirely of dreams.

Start. Yours. Now.

Future Proof Your Marketing

“Strong Opinions Weakly Held”

This phrase originated with Paul Saffro, Director of Palo Alto’s Institute for the Future. In a discussion about wisdom, Bob Johansen of the Institute allegedly explained to Bob Sutton that to deal with an uncertain future and still move forward, the Institute advises people to have “strong opinions, which are weakly held.”

Grab a compass and map. Plot your path, but be prepared to change your course when needed.

We are living times that can feel very fast-moving, volatile and uncertain. How do we prepare ourselves for this uncertain future? What skills will we need? What will the job market look like in 5, 10 or even 20 years? What new technologies are being developed that could create a threat to humanity? Where are the flying cars? Come on already I want one!

Ok, jokes aside, the world is changing. The old structures, silos, and routines that are part of most business’s day to day operations are becoming a hindrance to innovation. We are entering a new epoch that values agility, innovation, and creativity.

Welcome to the age of storytelling. We are standing on the precipice of a new world order, where visionaries will lead through their ability to tell stories. Storytellers are powerful. They create the world that we live in now and the one to come.

So Why Learn To Harness And Tell Your Own Story?

Your business’s organic story is unique. Unlike corporate colours, logos or taglines, it is not a conceptual piece of marketing. It is an organic narrative that unfolds with each passing day. It shifts with each decision, such as, new hires and evolving products and services. It cannot be replicated and it cannot be predicted. It must simply unfold. This is truly powerful when future proofing your brand or business. There can be similarities. But there are no two that are exactly the same. No other business has the exact unique blend of human capital and stories that you have.

Part of imagining where the future is going is understanding our current moment in time. To do this well we must understand our business’s story. It has a cast of characters, plot lines and twists and turns. An authentic and well-crafted story makes your business the main protagonist, as opposed to a secondary character. By focusing on your own story you let the narrative unfold and see how it moves you forward.

This unique story woven through content production, internal communications, presentations, and speeches creates memorable experiences. This attention leads to retention in your client or customer’s memory. This is the most precious real estate that you can own.

Storytelling is future proofing your brand. It is possible to copy a website’s look and feel. A competitor may develop a similar product or service. But no other business will have your experiences or diversity of skills of your unique story.

Let your story do the work. An organic story told slowly over time builds solid relationships and trust. A presentation featuring vision and dreams is always more inspiring than a bar graph. All the growth behind the spikes on the chart could not happen without the vision in the first place.

And the vision comes from the people. The empathy and connections formed via a strong story, allows a company to become agile, to reinvent itself as it changes. It works in partnership with the business and walks alongside it as it forges new paths into the future.

As a chronicler of business’s stories, I have seen this magic unfold again and again. And so I am calling all the brave and bold artists, corporates, business owners and change makers! The best way to predict our futures to create it. Let us all join together and tell the stories of the future we want to create. We have never had such an unprecedented ability to influence and affect our world.

And so I ask you, what story will you tell and where will it take you?

I recently ran an event at ACMI in November, The Evolution of Storytelling. I asked my presenters to explore the possibilities of storytelling in the future. Please have a look at the Hashtag on Twitter or on my Instagram.

3 Steps of Story Lead Change Management

Communicating between different teams such as creative and tech can present challenges. Are you are facing this problem within your business or organisation? A simple story may be just the thing you need.

Use the power of stories within your organisation to create a strategic way to inspire, education or motivate your employees, co-workers or clients.

Step 1 – Make Your Staff Heroes

There is a plot device in storytelling called the Hero’s Journey. The mythologist Joseph Campbell coined this term. He says that all stages of a hero’s journey are similar. First, adventure calls a character to accept a journey. The character then try’s to talk himself or herself out of taking the challenge. The call is eventually answered and the hero goes on to meet their destiny. For example, when Clark Kent accepts his extraordinary powers and becomes Superman. The challenge and journey represent the process of becoming yourself. It is also what unlocks your ability to help those around you.

Examine the stories of your staff to uncover their special superpowers. Their stories create connection around their personal and business goals to move them all forward. Stories ‘show’ their co-workers the kind of person they are, what their skills are and what makes each team member unique.

Step 3 – Make Work Meaningful

We all want to belong to something greater than ourselves.

It can be easy to get trapped in patterns or cycles within organisations with long-standing ways of working. Patterns can feel comfortable, but if a team’s goals are not aligned with their current path, it can make them feel impossible.

To make the impossible possible it is important to break free of tired cycles. An outsider’s fresh perspective can identify the well-worn paths under our feet we cannot see. What happens when we decide to leap off this path. Where do we go when this happens?

Leaving a path, to branch off into the unknown can feel like meandering, when in fact it is exploring. Exploring can bring us closer to goals. Staying locked in a cycle eventually leads us back to the beginning of where we started, this is not helpful when change is needed. A helicopter or bird’s eye view is needed as sometimes the cycle is so big it is possible to confuse it for forward motion. If in a year’s time everything feels eerily familiar it is because the cycle was so big it was hard to see the curve in the bend.

A clear vision creates a new path by planning for the future. Discovering that vision as a team makes it feel possible. All change starts with something that feels just beyond our reach, but if we all try just a bit harder we will get there together.

Imagine something that is completely new. Something you didn’t even think was possible. Make it possible and abandon the old cycle, so a new one can be forged!

Be Clear About How You Are Managing Transitions

It can feel unsettling when organisations are in a transition phase. The reality is in life is change is a constant, it is important to focus on making changes that create positive results.

We only know what we know at any given moment. As situations and co-workers around us flux and flow, the direction or the organisation will change.

This process feels better and more comfortable when you are aware that other people are changing as well. Staying flexible and understanding how people and circumstances are changing is very important.

Consider each step into the future as one on a shifting road. To monitor this ensure that part of your change management process includes gathering the stories and sentiments of the staff to understand where they are on their own journey.

Moving from one team or way of working to another can feel like leaping across a chasm. Teaching your team how to build their own bridges is the best way forward.

If you found this useful, please share this with your colleagues! For those of you in Melbourne join me and the Innovators Network on October 11 5:45 pm at the RACV club. Email anamicaroy@outlook.com for more your invitation or more information!

A Story Bridges The Gap From Innovation To Implementation!

Working in an innovation space can feel lonely when only a small number of people outside of your team understand what you are trying to accomplish. Or you are proudly rolling out a new project that solves a client’s problem, but they don’t understand how they fit in the solution. The program may be badly needed, but if the people who need your service don’t understand how it helps them, it won’t succeed. It is impossible to sell a product or service if you cannot clearly define it to your ideal customer, clients or co-workers.

Seeing your concept with an unbiased point of view is sometimes called ‘The Curse of Knowledge”.  While you may understand the value that you deliver if you cannot concisely explain why someone needs your offering getting a ‘yes’ can be very difficult. This applies to work colleagues as well to clients. If you cannot convey why a new process is important or what the changes to a program mean it is very difficult to get people to comply.

We can solve this problem with a strategic narrative.

A narrative strategy distils a complex concept into a simple story to create clarity around a project, product or service. This shareable story assists in forming a culture of understanding around your innovative solution to motivate people to get on board.

Let’s explain this in further detail with a simple story.

Your ‘Story’ needs to cross the bridge that divides a ‘New Project’ from the land of ‘Implementation’. Once the ‘Story’ journeys across this bridge it explains where it is going to people in the land of ‘Implementation’. ‘Story’ is successful on its journey because people in ‘Implementation’ understand how they can help it on its way.

This is how a story can work to bridge the gap between a new product or service and being embraced by clients, colleagues or the community.

True innovation relies on a clear vision for the future. This is where understanding your unique story becomes truly powerful.

Stories are not born spontaneously in a magical puff of smoke; they are shepherded into the world by a guide and supported by a flock. This shepherd is a strategic narrative advisor who creates clarity around the story of your work so it can move into the future.

Creating the world that we will live in tomorrow requires a bridge to connect your vision to a community. Let your story do the work for you.

Let’s chat! Schedule your 15-minute strategy call now!