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!

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.