Today I had a meeting with a good friend, Scott Thornley and we got to talking about his work as a storyteller. Scott has this amazing ability to look deeply into an initiative, company, campaign, performance or organization and find the ‘essence’. Even if he’s ‘just’ creating a logo for a client, he often creates a mini-book with language to take the client on a journey before showing the logo or creative that he’s been hired to deliver. Taking people through the possibilities, into their imagination is a critical starting point on the way to achieving greatness. As he talked about this it struck me that he often has to move people from where they are today into another level of thinking, of being, of doing, in order for them to meet the goal, the vision or the mission of their work. And it’s often a person from outside of our own work that helps us most to see the value and the possibilities of what we are working to achieve.
I also started to think about his storytelling in the framework of Theory for Change. Most of the people I’m working with and playing with in the world are working on the major challenges we are facing in society. We all have various theories of change that we follow, either consciously or unconsciously to get where we want to go. I can’t think of any theories of change that don’t have behavior change or attitude shifts as a key part of their success. And, often, the way to create these shifts is through words, images and experiences like Scott’s storytelling. So, storytelling is a critical element of any theory of change.
Dr. Howard Alper who is Chair of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council in Canada titled his most recent report – From Imagination to Innovation. He talks of how we need to start with imagination in order to get to innovation. And often times, the best way to get into imagination is through story.
If you find yourself leading a culture change parade in your organization, government, company or community I would highly recommend working with a storyteller who can dig deeply into the essence of what you are working to achieve and making it a key element of your theory of change. We need new messages, new language and fresh imagination to create the innovation that will get us to a sustainable place on this planet.