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.

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!

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.

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!

Who Is The Mysterious Lady?

There was nothing unusual about the small wooden pipe except for a tiny glass rectangle protruding from the bottom of its bowl. This piece of glass is so small it could be easily missed. For those who don’t miss it will see a black and white image if they press their eye against it at just the right angle. A magnified image of a woman wearing a peasant style dress with loose dark waves of hair around her face sits within a gold frame.

The woman in the image has a slight smile on her relaxed lips, not unlike that of another mysterious famous lady, The Mona Lisa.

How can one compare the Mona Lisa to a miniature photo of a peasant woman magnified on the bottom of a pipe? The similarity lies not in what it is, but what it represents.

The image in the tiny glass window the size of a hole in a large knitting needle is fascinating. Who was this woman? Was she the wife, daughter or lover of the pipe’s owner? And who was the skilled crafts person who created such a small and perfect magnified glass image on the bottom of this pipe?

This is something that I am not ever likely to find out. That is what makes this story great. It is a mystery with more questions than answers. This pipe and its hidden treasure are very old and the woman, the pipe’s creator and the original owner are all long gone.

A good story does not have all of the answers. A good story leaves something for the imagination of the reader to insert his or her own interpretation into. A story that asks questions allows the audience to create their own meaning in the story.

Who is the lady in the pipe? Who do you think she is? Tell me in a comment below!

Free Storytelling Workshop!

Save the Date!

 My Interactive Storytelling Workshop Date Is April 8th 2016, 4:30 – 6 pm!
This workshop is going to be fun. I can’t wait for you to join me at NAB Village room 5. If you don’t know which room that is don’t worry, there will be a sign. After the game stay for a drink or two. What a great way to finish off a week.

This workshop will be a live interactive board game experience. If you would like to play and bring a friend to play along, let me know. They are more than welcome, just hit the button below to register yourself and your friends!

If you can’t make this date, I am very sad to hear it! Hopefully you can play a game with me some other time. If you can make it and would like to attend please send me an email at megan @ spendloveandlamb.com

When you register I will send you an update each week in the lead up to the event and give you a clue towards a problem we will be solving together. This week’s clue is –

What should each and every story have? Think about this, I want you to remember to bring a representation of this to our workshop. This could be anything. The actual object, a photo of it or something that reminds you of it. We will need these objects to play with in the workshop.

I can’t wait….

Life Is Lived In The Little Moments

Life is not about the big stuff. Everything that is important is quite small.

We tend to think of a person’s life as a long and complex story. A biography shouldn’t be a short easy read right? It should be a complex narrative that examines a person’s loves, struggles, accomplishments and failures.

What if I said while life is complex, it is the little moments that count. Each life journey is made of millions of micro stories. All of these tales collected together create a much larger narrative. But the tiny moments carry the most meaning.

For example, the story of a wedding could start with a chance brushing of hands on a train during a morning commute to work. If that chance encounter on the train didn’t occur this couple’s life may have turned out differently. Our couple would not be tying the knot all of these months later. The moment they first touched is when this love story began.

What moments have you experienced today that you would like to share with your audience? Your ability to recognise and explain the relevance of seemingly insignificant events are the way to create the story of your life or business.

Pay attention to the little things, the small details. This is where your greater story comes together and the meaning of your life unfurls.

The next step is to tell them to the right person to move your personal and business goals forward.