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

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

The Boiling Frog Dilemma


Calling all Canadians (and even if you are not, the message is worthwhile reading). Todd Hirsch and Robert Roach have produced what should be the Canadian primer on innovation.  They call for a structural change in Canadian DNA. “Canada needs to change at a fundamental level that ripples out into every nook and cranny of the economy. The goal is not only an economic revolution but a social one as well. Canadians need to break old habits, think differently and see the world in new ways.”  YUMMY!  For me, this message is like preaching to the choir and maybe for you as well.  But, if you are looking for a way to push innovation into our C-suites, buy your boss a copy of this book (after you read it of course). The message is clear. We have everything we need to be a world-class economy, but have to stop underachieving.  Business as usual means no business at all.  A great little read with a powerful message. And one that bears repeating …. over and over and over and …  you get the idea!  Get it online at chapters as an ebook or purchase from Todd and Robert directly.

The Philosophy of Branding


In your wildest dreams, you probably have not envisioned Socrates running a brand workshop. It is a little mind bending! But in The Philosophy of Branding, Thom Braun has explored the history of great philosophers and linked their work to branding practice. Its not as much of a stretch as you would think. If you consider that a brand is the essence of something, rather than a concrete representation, you are getting close how branding should be done and seldom is.  Some call a living brand corporate religion.  Brands stand for something – more than a product or service. Something deeper that resonates at an emotional (or in my language archetypal) level. In a world where branding is driven by prosumers, this is a great little surprise text  to deepen your understanding of how a brand operates. For example:

Nietzsche’s Top Tip:  Values are at the heart of branding – but in a much more potent sense than we normally assume. Brand values should not just be ‘attachments’ to a product or service, but rather the driving force for what the brand can dare to become. Competitive edge lies in creating new values – perhaps risky values – rather than repacking existing market values. The way to ‘superbrands’ is through owning the territory that goes with those values.”

Think insight – not information, not data. An interesting read and great reference tool.  Methinks it might become one of my branding textbooks.

Philosophy of Branding: Great Philosophers Think Brands

Emotionomics


Curious as to how to win hearts and minds of your clients (internal or external)? Dan Hill has written an fascinating book on the latest contributions from psychology, neuroscience, human interaction design and behavioural economics that shatter old assumptions. I had the pleasure of listening to his presentation at a recent Conference Board retreat and was intrigued by his approach.  For anyone interested in Branding – this book is a must.  If you are looking for insight – this book pushes the limits of research into a proven method that answers the all important question – ‘what do customers want?’  Hill is an expert in facial coding and uses a combination of the ancient art of storytelling with recent advances in brain science to drive actionable results.  

For too long, business has been crunching numbers instead of harnessing emotion. Big data doesn’t give you insight.  If you want to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, this is an invaluable resource. If you only read one book on customer insight or branding this year, Emotionomics wins my vote.

 

Emotionomics: Winning Hearts and Minds

Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop talking


Finally! Some brilliant soul – in this case, Susan Cain – has written the book for which every introvert has been looking. For those of us who, when silent in a meeting, are asked if something is ‘wrong’ – this book will make an excellent gift for those who asked the question.  From the front cover:

“At least one third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying, who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favour working on their own over brainstorming in teams.”

Listen to Susan Cain on ted.com for an inspiring talk on the power of introversion. She speaks to the need to respect diversity in how we work – instead of forcing introverts to become something that reduces their creativity and ability to innovate.  If you know or more importantly, are introverted, this book will confirm what you already know and few believe. Introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes as they allow the employees they manage to run with their ideas.  So, if you want more innovative and sustainable leadership – perhaps you should look to the introverts in your organization. You might be overlooking an amazing source of creative capital.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Culturematic


I have been following the work of Grant McCracken for a while and have yet to be disappointed.    McCracken is an anthropologist that studies culture in organizations and has taught at MIT, Harvard and is a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge. Following his previous work Chief Culture Officer in 2011, his latest book on Culture is just as informative and more importantly, for summer reading, entertaining. Culturematic is about making an ingenuity engine that drives performance – something sorely needed in this economy. For emerging producers of culture, this book serves as a digital guide to the territory. For traditional producers of culture – hopefully the book will act as a source of inspiration. How to manage innovation from the C-suite? This book provides some welcome guidelines for creating a culture of innovation.  If you want to get ahead of your competition, the most secret sauce of competitive advantage is your culture. McCracken shows you both why and how. He blogs extensively at culture by.com on the intersection points between anthropology and economics.  Worth checking out.

Culturematic: How Reality TV, John Cheever, a Pie Lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football . . . Will Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas

The Storytelling Animal


Jonathan Gottschall has written a great little book on how stories make us human. Drawing on the latest research in psychology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. The purpose of any story is to carry a value system – a moral message – that is communicated to inform and inspire the listener/reader. We are genetically ‘wired’ to respond to stories – and this book explains how and why.  An excellent addition to a summer book bag for the beach!

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human