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 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!

Psst, Hey Wanna Get High? On Stories?

Stories make us feel good. Yup, that good.

According to novelist and neurologist, Robert Burton, when we hear something with a beginning, middle, and an end, we get a hit of dopamine. Dopamine is our natural feel-good, high chemical. This is why we love and are addicted to stories. From childhood fairytales to novels, to TV shows and movies, stories have us hooked.

From an evolutionary standpoint getting high on stories makes sense. Stories serve many purposes in society. A few of the primary functions are to educate, inspire, motivate or entertain. A story that creates a shared point of view allows us to see from the same place of understanding. This is key to creating a culture of agreement and shared values.

The following is a story my mother told me about road safety when I was a little girl.

When my mother was a girl she lived next door to a boy who liked to play basketball in his front yard. One day, when he was playing ball, it bounced out into the street. He ran after it, without looking both ways. A car swerved to miss him, but it was too late. He was rushed to the hospital with a broken leg and needed a cast. Even worse than that he needed bed rest and his birthday was a few days away. He had to miss his own birthday party. And that’s why you always look both ways before crossing the road.

When you are a kid death is a big concept to grasp. Even as an adult, it is difficult to come to terms with. But missing your own birthday party? That is terrible, we all know that!

I am now an adult, but I will never forget that story. It has taught me to remember to look before crossing the street and become a useful storytelling tool. Thanks, Mum!

It is a simple story, but the message is clear, ‘Always look both ways before crossing the road.’

Are there any challenges you are facing within your business or organisation? A simple story maybe just the thing you need. Imagine a story that explains how a product or service works, or a narrative that inspires your customers to follow you on a social media storytelling journey.

A narrative strategy could be just the ticket. A narrative strategy uses the power of stories within your personal or professional realm to create a strategic way to inspire, education or motivate your employees, co-workers or clients.

I used the story of the little boy who missed his own birthday to explain how attaching a story to a message is effective. It conveys a message in a memorable and efficient way. The right stories addressing the right pain points within your business or organisation will create the same results.

If you want a hit of story, get in touch about my mini-narrative strategy sessions. I come to your location and run a short session to create a story for a problem that you need to solve.

Feed your story addition with me, it will feel good, I promise!