True Story


My adventures as a Visiting Professor here in Copenhagen are coming to an end. Teaching at the Business School here has been a fabulous experience – even more so by the realization that I don’t have to explain the importance of storytelling in Denmark. Nor to the international students or faculty who are in attendance. As I found in the Middle East, storytelling is considered foundational to insightful  communication.  It signifies sophistication.  So keeping up with my reading in this area was a double delight.

I have a newly released offering for you. Ty Montague has supplied a welcome addition to the field of storytelling.  Taking the telling into actionable results.  He starts from the premise that all of us have a personal story or metastory. From there, he makes the move towards interpretation of these metastories, as a shortcut to understanding the people around us.  He drives home the point that our stories are about meaning, what we value.

Montague then moves towards brands – also emphasizing meaning over product and the corporate cultures that drive the brands. He speaks of “story doing” and claims this is the new landscape for brands.  He asks an interesting question for consideration: What if you built a process around first understanding the story that needed to be told, and then used that story to inform every aspect of the company? The emphasis to be placed not on the telling – but on the doing. He offers an action map that can be used to drive this process. Everything stems from the metastory – any new products or serves, new experiences, new team structures, new processes and new communication. This new approach? Social innovation by design.

It’s an interesting lens on a powerful proven method. It follows the same logic that Roberto Verganti gave us in his  “Design-Driven Innovation” with a few additional twists. Bottom line is narrative communicates meaning. Narrative is here to stay and for any business that doesn’t realize its potential well – survival is optional.

True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform Your Business

Ctrl Alt Delete


OK the title got me.  I spent years hitting those keys.  Needing a little break from summer school, this book called my name. Yes, fun reading – but big message.  The new true marketing imperative is telling a great brand narrative. One word? Storytelling. Mitch Joel takes us on a journey that will open your eyes to the future that is already here.  He maintains the true opportunity for business going forward to to create and maintain a direct relationship with consumers. To look forward with the eyes of a consumer and not as a business person.  Consumers are social – more than they have ever been before. Consumers are more hands on – because they can be.  A great example used by Joel is “Kickstarter” – a New York startup founded in April 2009 and has raised more than $275 million for more than sixty-five thousand projects since it started. Can’t get the attention of venture capitalists because you are too small (or too whatever)?  Kickstarter may be the vehicle for you. Driven by consumers. Supported by consumers. A great example of crowdsourcing – if your public supports you, who needs VCC’s?

Some simple rules:

1. Deliver value first.

2. Be open.

3.  Be clear and consistent.

4. Create a mutally beneficial world.

5. Find your true fans – your evangelists.

Start looking at media as one platform – text, images, audio and video. Once your delivery platform becomes one digital pipeline – you can put it anywhere.   The biggest challenge will be to figuring out exactly where that ‘where’ is. Our world now entails the exponential growth of new media.  What does that mean? Think fast and agile AND slow build.  Responding to market forces or even better, staying ahead of the trends while at the same time, a slow build with your customers – relationships take time.  That relationship gives you insight – not just data. And then he turns to rebooting your life. A very interesting read!

Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It.

Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters


As I sit here listening to the rain outside my window in Copenhagen, I am staying warm and dry by prepping for next week’s classes. I have a great mix of international students who have given up their summer to explore new frontiers in business. Staying ahead of them is keeping me busy! I am always amazed at the insights to be gained by crossing interdisciplinary boundaries.  The business professors also come in from all over the world and our lunch and dinner conversations keep ideas flowing. I think the beer in Denmark has something to do with it!

This week our focus in advanced market research at CBS is on Aristotle and social innovation (phronesis).  “Telling the story” is the job of marketing in the world of business. And exploring new markets gives ample opportunity for developing a new story. Hopefully – to change the ending of our current economic tale. As a reference guide, Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters is an invaluable tool that works equally well for strategists.  In order to gain competitive advantage, you need to go where other people are not (remember Blue Ocean Strategy)?

Michael Tierno has done a masterful job of walking the reader through the best of Aristotle. Whether or not he realizes it, Tierno has also done a masterful job of walking the reader through the complexities of experiential marketing.  The principles are the same: engage your reader – engage your customer. Create a memorable experience. A story worth telling. A story worth remembering. If you need to insert some new life into the ‘story’ of your business, here is a worthwhile primer. And you get a little philosophy lesson as a bonus. Contemplation for the beach perhaps? You can bring the beer.

Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets From the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization

Character Development and Storytelling for Games


I waited a long time for this baby. Lee Sheldon has come out with his second edition of a fabulous resource book on character development. I know it says for games. You may not be a gamer, but if you ever construct a story – then this book deserves your attention. Storytelling is a discipline and as a discipline, it has some basic structure that is the difference between a good and a great story. The same holds for developing characters. So if you are building personas in scenario planning or marketing, this book is a great guide. If you are thinking of working with transmedia, then this book is invaluable. When you read this review, I will be starting a new course in marketing and storytelling at the business school in Copenhagen. Reviews over the next 6 weeks will be done in one of the oldest schools in Europe. Museums, cafes, architecture and great food are on the agenda. I’ll keep you posted.

Character Development And Storytelling For Games

Leading Out Loud


Terry Pearce followed his heart and went back to school – something dear to my heart. Even better, he was drawn to the same program that I took a few years back – a PhD in comparative mythology and depth psychology. In his studies, he explored what it meant to lead across cultures, deepening his understanding of why people do what they do. I know I am biased, but, I believe no better preparation for the complexities of our current global world of business.

Pearce first published “Leading Out Loud” in 1995 and it quickly become a classic in the field. In this third edition, he expands on the reflective work necessary, no demanded, by authentic leadership in order to inspire commitment and action. He asks the question ‘where do passion and commitment reside’? Answer: in inspiration – and this book will act as both guide and nourishment for the journey to the authentic Self. Pearce has taught leadership communication at UC Berkeley, the Haas School of Business and the London Business School. He draws upon a wealth of experience and adds a deepening of perspective in the authentic leadership model.

A worthy addition to your reference library.

Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership)

Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity


Keith Sawyer has a lot to say about creativity and I find myself listening closely. He has a great academic pedigree and is a jazz pianist, does improv and writes games. So … he practices what he preaches. He focuses on some key questions – how can each person be more creative  and – how can the organization work together to translate individual creativity into organizational innovation. As that is my primary area of research, I dove into this book.

It seems that most books on creativity have steps or stages attached 🙂 I guess it comes with the territory of attempting to harness the creative impulse into something that we all can both understand and replicate.  Psychology has been studying creativity for decades and one thing we know for sure – these stage models work. Creativity is a non-linear process which is why there are so many ways to explore the creative impulse. It usually does not descend like a bolt of lightening – but instead responds to constant tending. This book is like a personal trainer for the creative impulse. Interesting exercises that can be done daily. Practice makes perfect! and it takes a lot of practice (10,000 hours according to Gladwell) to become an expert where you are comfortable in your own skin.

The thing I like most about this book is the emphasis on creativity as a discipline – you do it every day. The more you practice the process, the better the results, the faster the ideas, and the easier the implementation.  Just like learning how to drive – learn the process until it becomes automatic.

Steps are: (1) Ask (2) Learn (3) Look (4) Play (5) Think (6) Fuse (7) Choose (8) Make.  Similar to many others but again different.  Some great exercises, quizzes and lots of stories. An easy fun read.

ZigZag

Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity

Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity


When you straddle the world of business and the world of the arts, it can sometimes be a stretch.  Josh Linkner reminds us that the only thing that can’t be commoditized is creativity.  He has come up with 5 steps to follow that both discipline and enhance creativity process – for as those of you know who work in a creative space, creativity is also a discipline.  When you are fighting to maintain ‘share of mind’ – some solid tools help the process.  Simple and yet effective. The five steps are : (1) Ask (2) Prepare (3) Discover (4) Ignite (5) Launch.  Linkner believes that this methodology can help anyone and encourages you to let your ideas come out and play.  In order to play to win – instead of playing not to lose – to stand out and be truly remarkable – creativity is the only sustainable competitive advantage.

Some questions from the book to whet your appetite:

1. What percentage of your time is spent creating something new, as opposed to working out operational details or protecting the past?

2. List five ways you can beat your competition.  How can they beat you?

3. If you were entering your industry as a start-up, how would you break the mold to beat the incumbents?

4. What elements of the past or status quo are you clinging to? What do you need to let go of?

5. List five ways your company is stagnating; for each of these, list at least two ideas addressing how to break through those barriers?

Some great food for thought and would work at the beach.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0470922222/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0470922222&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwmythsamong-20

The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen


It has been a really hectic couple of months.  Finishing off the school term, a couple of academic papers and a major conference presentation in Doha, Qatar has kept me running. Doha is an amazing city and I loved being there. Keep your eyes on Qatar – economy moving at light speed and dedication to education and health care. An idea that a few other countries (like Canada) should keep in mind!

One last conference keynote was on the agenda before the next adventure of teaching in Copenhagen at the Business School this summer.  The Journey 2 Success Women Entrepreneurs Conference in Oakville, ON was a couple of days ago and what a delightful treat it turned out to be! Not only a great conference, but found a treasured gem that now has an honored place on my bookshelf.

The luncheon speaker was Barbara Stegemann of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her book, The 7 Virtues of a Philospher Queen tells her amazing entrepreneurial story. Barb started a perfume company that purchases its perfume oils from war-torn regions of the world and her motto is  “Make Perfume Not War”. She believes that we can use our buying power to empower families in those countries that are rebuilding after conflict or any other disaster.  The book is dedicated to a close friend who was wounded in Afghanistan – you have to read the book to find out more!  Great storytelling, sound enterpreneurial advice and social innovation make a great read for the summer.

I love her story and the 7 Virtues Fragrance selection to my nose, is a winner. I am sorry to report I have left my favored Jo Malone perfumes for another woman. My choice was a harmonious blend called “Middle East Peace” – a combination of grapefruit, lime and basil that is just yummy.  Available at the Bay stores in Canada and Lord & Taylor in the US.  You can get the books online (link above) or purchase at the Bay or Lord & Taylor’s while you are testing out the perfumes. Just think, buying a bottle of perfume as a way to reduce conflict. Teaching people how to fish instead of giving them ‘aid’. Social innovation at its best! Great book. Great perfume. Great woman!!

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World


I have to admit I’m getting a little nervous. In a couple of weeks (or as my niece calls it – 15 more sleeps), I am getting on a plane for Doha, Qatar to speak at the Global Innovators Conference in Education.  Certainly one of my passions and pet peeves at the same time. Education needs reform the same as our economy – and if you work in any large organization – you know how difficult it is to change bureaucracy.  One of my favourite authors to read when feeling discouraged is Tony Wagner. His previous book, The Global Achievement Gapoutlines some of the changes currently taking place in education (reviewed last year).  It might be slow but it is steady and we need all the support we can get.  In Creating Innovators, he speaks to both educators and parents as to how to keep that wonderful creative spark alive in all of us.  He provides countless examples of school programs that encourage both art and science – both sides of the brain – that spur creative and critical thinking.  He also has included video content right in the book – technology working at its best.  Download the Microsoft Tag Reader into your phone and you can watch various interviews with both Tony Wagner and many other innovators he has interviewed for the book.  Available in both the Kindle edition and hardcover, this is a great read to add to your library of how to make the world a better place.  I’ll let you know what happens in Qatar – some incredible work being done in education world-wide.  So, patience for a little while longer. We are working as fast as we can to bring about educational reform.

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World

 

Lead with a Story


Starting the New Year off right, to me means honouring my roots.  The Power of Story.  Paul Smith has written an excellent guide to why the art of story is the most probably the most important leadership skill.  As Director of Consumer & Communications Research at Proctor and Gamble, Paul got a lot of practice. Storytelling and the power of story has finally come of age in the business world.  Most successful companies now use storytelling as a leadership tool. Some examples:

At Nike, all senior executives are designated “corporate storytellers.” 3M banned bullet points years ago and replaced them with a process of writing “strategic narratives.” Procter & Gamble hired Hollywood directors to teach its executives storytelling techniques. Scenario planning (or storytelling in multiple forms) is now a highly effective form of strategy.  And if you are in my faovurite transmedia space, well … I don’t have to tell you about the power and profitability of narrative.  The rest of North America is slowly catching on to what successful global organizations have been using for years.

Business schools are beginning to add storytelling to coursework. I use story and build storytelling into every course I teach – strategy, competitive intelligence, consumer behaviour, marketing – all benefit from the use of the best communication tool ever invented.  Start your New Year off by joining a movement that is both instructive and fun. If you want your organization to prosper in 2013, why not increase your competitive advantage?  Sometimes, the old ways are the best.

Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire