“Sometime reality is too complex. Stories give it form.”
It’s a phrase from filmmaker Jean-Luc Goddard. Turns out, innovators and artists share an interesting problem: how do you get people to believe in something imaginary? Is there a way to show people the ripples in the pond before the rock has shattered the water’s surface?
Once upon a time
To make the future visible, I created a story canvas.
Called storyFORMing, it uses shape and colour to organise a wide array of questions into six themes. To complete a canvas, you answer the questions. To answer the questions, you draw on the information and insight you possess, and also on more abstract qualities like imagination and empathy. A tight logic holds your replies in a constellation that is coherent. In this way, detail that would otherwise overwhelm a thinker is contained and organised.
And thus, people discover that there is a simplicity on the far side of the complex, and what’s more, it’s often expressed as a story.
Entrepreneurs have used storyFORMing to power rapid brand development (including naming and core messaging). First-time-right branding reduces anxiety and save precious time and money.
Startup teams who are not fluent in gathering testimonials or running project evaluations to do so with ease, using storyFORMing.
Solo creative practitioners seek storyFORMing coaching for “sifting through all the stuff you care about” in order to determine key communication, business and self-development goals.
For coaches, storyFORMing provides a coherent set of questions about aspirations and achievements, prompting clients to surface assumptions about how their own work enriches the lives of others.
StoryFORMing gets to the nub or heart of complex ideas and problems and simplifying them so that they can be analysed and understood more clearly. – Cultural sector senior leader
In corporate change, it helps leaders distinguish and connect the different audiences who need to understand the change programme’s relevance to their work experience.
So what then?
People using storyFORMing tend to have a healthier relationship to their work achievements. Fact is, they tend to feel courage flowing more readily into their work life. Their “why” is now visible, tangibly connecting with the wider world.
But who am I to dare?
With a degree in semiotics, I avoided the advertising industry and instead trained as an actor. I accepted a PhD bursary to nab a student visa. I began commercial storytelling in the NGO sector after my highly contentious PhD failed to be published. I caught the tail-end of the tech boom joining a privately funded software startup. There, I discerned the logic of commercial stories by seeing what failed and worked. I’m proud that this software company eventually succeeded in transforming how complex pedestrian environment are designed and managed.
When I left the software company, I was able to test what I’d learned in the one setting by advising knowledge-rich businesses of all scales as a PR consultant. The canvas shapes and colours came to me in a flash, as I mulled the success of a massive global crowdfunder called This One’s 4 Ruby, a campaign I conceived in the days before Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Since then, I’ve trained academically as a coach an become a certified Creative Problem Solving facilitator, equipping me all the better to help people who want to make a dent in the world do so, without wrecking their lives in the process.
And this is why I bother
The world has a problem with data, and with information overload. People know stories strike us in our guts and shake us to our bones. Forming truthful stories from complex situations doesn’t come easy. StoryFORMing helps.