Inventing The Future Through Story

Leadership workshop: Inventing The Future Through Story

As the year comes to a close it’s time to start reflecting on the year that has been and preparing and planning for the year ahead. In this article we explore how creating visioning and engaging storytelling can help us prepare for an unpredictable future. As the first of a two-part series, the article includes reflections and practical actions for shaping the future.

How recognizable would your organisation be without its logo? How strong is the organisation story?

Like the famous Coke and Pepsi taste test experiment revealed, the story behind the company is often what creates the brand rather than the products themselves.

As today’s excellence becomes tomorrow’s norm and information becomes a commodity, companies will have to know how to ‘invent the future’ in creative new ways. Understanding the importance of creating a vision and narrative for the organization will be the first step to innovation.

No longer are the facts and figures enough… no longer can we rely on the cold hard data. The new qualities that will drive us forward personally and professionally, as individuals and as organizations, will be the ‘soft’ values, and the stories that are woven around them.

Dare to be different

As unpredictable as the future may seem to be, it is possible to prepare for it and shape it in many ways.
It is vital that individuals within the organization take a clear proactive rather than reactive stance, and the best way to do this is by forming a solid vision and mission for where to go and how to get there.

Rather than getting bogged down with the limitations of the past and the realities of the present, the visioning process allows for dreaming about potentials and possibilities. It is a modern form of storytelling that allows for poetic license within the organization, for permission to dare to be different.

The story of the organization to date provides the framework and inspiration for this visioning process, and story, in turn, can be the tool for growing and sharing this vision. Here is how you can utilize the power of story in the organization through the process of visioning and ‘inventing the future’:

1) Share the power of story

The most popular business books today rely heavily on it, the most in touch leaders communicate through it, and the most successful organizations capitalize on it at all levels – both internally and externally – but not many recognize its power and utilize it to its full potential. The ancient art that is no longer the exclusive domain of poets and bards, storytelling, is being revived in a significant new trend.

Through the industrial age and into the computer age, as we have striven to create more efficient systems through automation and now computerization, the power of emotion and the stories that are built up around the interaction of emotions have been relegated to lower levels of importance. And yet we are just now again realizing, ironically, that emotive stories are in fact the soul of the organization. Leave these out, and there is no integrity, passion, innovation or real motivation to achieve excellence.

2) Create a sense of ownership

The story of a company must come from everyone. Interestingly enough, the power of owning and telling the story no longer belongs with the spin doctors – it has become the domain of the people. So, in order to invent the future, it will be important to create a shared sense of ownership.

Unless there is a clear awareness of the underlying values and the way they drive daily choices and decisions, it is not possible to achieve maximum potential. Everyone needs to be able to embody the values and live the values in order for the organization to function in the way it should, as a dynamic living organism.

3) Construct an organizational narrative

Just as individuals need to have a sense of personal history, present experience, and future possibilities, organizations also need to learn to articulate their own personal narrative. The organization of the future will have a powerful story to tell that inspires and motivates people.

Through the process of creating this narrative – individuals are given the opportunity to reflect on their own place within the organization, the link between performance and achievement is enhanced, and the power of teams is maximized. A common identity and purpose is shaped, which is turn builds a stronger and more positive organizational culture.

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