Like Disney, one of the half-dozen organizations I most admire, I have personally “always been in a state of becoming.” Researching and telling future stories for clients in dozens of business sectors, has allowed me to continue to expand my skills, broaden my knowledge and to more fully draw upon the cognitive learning studies I participated in as a university researcher. Cognition is the mental processing that includes working memory, comprehending and producing language, calculating, reasoning, problem solving and decision-making – processes that are essential to creating, communicating and acting upon future stories.
With my team, I tell stories that tap into goose-bump emotions. The stories are both magical and logical. They create connections for people, they invent or reinvent new business categories and they convince the audience they can be part of something larger than themselves.
My writing ability gave me permission to establish my own successful graphics studio at the age of 21; to write, direct and produce multimedia spectaculars (the largest being a 65-screen show that combined high resolution imagery, holography and live performance); to be among the first to employ touchscreen technology; and to design and build state-of-the-art interactive theaters, up to 500 seats in size, where the audience determined the outcome of the story. Those theaters have been located on mountaintops, in aboriginal lands and in a number of landmark buildings. Based on this experience, we encourage our clients to use state-of-the-art media to disseminate their story in innovative ways.
I have learned that describing the future of something in writing and in vivid detail dramatically increases the probability of it happening and of it being successful. That something can be a startup business, an innovation, a major event, or even an entire city or a country. My stories answer the question, “how will people – customers, visitors, investors, the media and employees – experience this something when the idea is fully realized?”
This unique approach to storytelling came as a result of my work with special-interest organizations, many of them not-for-profits – museums, science centers and major global events including a succession of world’s fairs. These organizations often have large and complex boards-of-directors and my challenge was to get the members of the board, along with the organization’s day-to-day leaders, to agree on what their story, their vision, should be. Not only agree, but to also commit their undivided support to that vision.
I realized that the most effective way of getting organizations to agree on their story was to have them write the story themselves. In thought-provoking two-day sessions, my team and I provide the creative direction and skillful facilitation to keep the participants on time and on topic. Together, we encourage organizations – who want to be the best, the fastest, the biggest, the most profitable, the most humanitarian, the whatever – to aim for the ultimate, to make their last move first. Then, in an optional separate session, the team works backwards to assist our client in plotting every step they must take to become their story, to realize their vision. Storytelling transitions into storydoing.
That process was originally known as envisioning (a term that I coined when in 1995 I founded a company known as Envisioning + Storytelling). Since then, envisioning has become a near ubiquitous blue sky process along with recent iterations, such as brain-swarming, that focus on pure idea generation, whereas my original approach has long since evolved into a concept known as leapfrogging (leapfrogthinking.com) that can also teach organizations how to become more creative and how to turn ideas into innovations.
Using the Internet, we are now also able to engage every employee of an organization, regardless of size, in specific stages of the story-driven innovation process. Imagine the possibilities.