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Lesson 11 from: Courage, Creativity and the Power of Change

Beth Comstock

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Lesson Info

11. Storytelling

What is the relationship between strategy and story? How does storytelling influence not just ad revenue but your own personal brand? In this class, you will participate in a press release exercise and a storytelling challenge to push you to make the invisible visible.
Next Lesson: Agitated Inquiry

Lesson Info


So we've been talking a lot about getting ready for change, putting yourself out there, and I know many of you are like, OK, well, like I need a little bit more action here. This is all great, but I got to get stuff done. This where I hope to make some of that happen in this last section of getting toe action, making it happen. It's really where it all comes together. Change is active. You have to lead it. You can't delegate it. You have to own the action. It starts with you. And so the first thing I want to focus on today is the power of story. I, uh I realized as I put together my book and I thought back I ended my career is somebody who was ah, leading businesses and innovation and venturing. But really, at my core, I'm a storyteller, and I think for all of us, we have to channel some kind of ability to tell our story about who we are and where we're going in the world. Um, so to me, is this sort of basic premise. If you can't tell a story, how can you possibly sell anything an idea...

. Ah, business yourself and this notion that change is really nothing more than the turning point in a narrative. And so, um, if you think about it that way, In fact, I'm a big believer. That story is the glue that binds us culturally. It's the can. It's what we've passed down from generations, and it has to be communicated repeatedly. Stories. They're not something that you just say once and assume everybody is doing it. A part of what we're talking about is creating a narrative so that people can see themselves in it so that they want to join you. They want to be part of it, so they know where you're coming from, so they know that your you're clear about it. It's, um it's a strategy and I have a saying. Also, story is a strategy. Is a story well told? We're going to get into that. But if you learn how to tell stories really well, um, it's about a vision. It's a vision for the future. It's taking that imagination and putting it into a way that people can access it, and if you tell it really well, people will even call you a visionary. So I got to be somewhat of a Thomas Edison student studying him, working for a company like G. But we've all studied Thomas Edison in grade school, you know, the archetypal innovate American innovator. But he was also a great storyteller. And it's how he had to sort of portray some really tough technologies. So he was trying to sell not just a light bulb, but the electrical grid. And so, back in the late 18 hundreds, he was trying to convince people that they wouldn't all just keel over by screwing in a lightbulb or having electricity come into their house. And he could give him all the data, but he had to convince him. So what did he do? He threw a parade. So he went to downtown New York City into Manhattan, and he created the man torch parade. And what he did is he had 400 men, and I'm sure they were all men who walked with live wires down there back and light bulbs on their head. And he was elected generating the electricity as they walked down the streets of Manhattan. Certainly. So the media would see But so the message would be electricity is safe. I can harness this power and bring it into your house. And look, no one died doing it. So he was a great storyteller and a showman and the ability to tell his story about the future. We look a great inventors over time. I mean, I think we all can recognize the great storytelling of Of even more recently, a Steve Jobs and the ability to stand up in paint division. Ah, and tell us about things we didn't even know we wanted. And then five minutes later, we realised we can't live without it. For me, it was a lot of Ah ah, one of its biggest storytelling challenges I found in my business was tryingto explain why machines needed to be on the Internet. We called it the Industrial Internet, and it didn't make a lot of sense to people. We gave them a lot of inside. Oh, it's about better productivity for your machines. We're gonna be able to service things, but it came down to simple stories like Imagine if your jet engine could tweet. What would it tell you? I would say, Hey, it's kind of hot up here. I need to come in earlier. Hey, you know what? Things are really great appear I don't need to come off that wing. So the ability to take a story and transport people in things that seemingly are very, very mundane. So I think story is something that, um that I have felt eyes, an essential for change and leadership and really just getting anyone to join you and what you're trying to dio so is somebody who grew up in communications. I had to write a lot of press releases in my life, and I found this a really helpful example of an exercise. You do not have to be a communications expert to do this, but I pass this on to you as one as a tool. I think you'll find very helpful. So let's say you have an idea. Let's say you're trying to pitch something to someone. Maybe you want a picture business. Maybe you just want to pitch a new meeting. Um, write it as a press release. What's your story? What are you trying to sell here? If you can't tell, it's simply and what you're and and this helps you do it. And really, what I think you're trying to test with this is Do you have a strategy? Because often people think I have a great idea. And now by this, or have a great idea now do this. But they haven't thought through a disciplined way of looking. Is there a strategic filter here? So I like this is just a exercise. What's happening is the first thing. Your headline. What's happening? Can you make it really succinct? A really crisp headline. It doesn't have to be so clever. Your not expected to be an ad agent guru. Just what's a really simple headline? Next, your listing. A couple of bullets, 2 to 3 bullets. What's this about? Right up front? What are two or three key points? You want to say to people about what you're trying to dio? Third, is your kind of putting together the some of your story. It's really about restating what's happening, but you're putting it into Bennett. Two paragraphs. You're putting the benefits, and then I love to have a quote. If it's your idea, quote yourself. Simone, saying I'm launching this new production company, um, and summarize with some supporting notes and then end summarize. What's the benefit to someone else? Not just how great you are. Why do you care? What I like about this is it's As I said, it's a good filter for strategy because a couple of things, if you can't really succinctly put your idea in a headline, I don't mean a headline that goes on for like, five lines. I mean one line it can locate, maybe have a little, ah, double line, but a simple headline. That's your first test. Can you say this really succinctly? If not, then how is anyone else going to know what you're talking about? Compelling points. I think we can have an argument about whether they need to be all logical or emotional. I believe you need a combination of both. What's in it for the person needs to be both something that's, let's say you're selling a product. You wanted to hit the wallet, but you also wanted to hit Ah, need they have an emotion that they're going to be better out of it, and then the body copy And I love quotes for this. So like if you're getting up in announcing your grand new idea, your grand new business. You're telling your mom Hey, I'm going to go start this business and you're Quote is something that sounds like you don't know what you've just said. It's a bunch of gibberish. It's a bunch of words that really don't mean anything. It just sounds, really makes you sound smart. Maybe that's a filter that you don't have a good reason for what you're doing. So I like this is a bit of, as I said, a way to kind of test your strategy. Andi, I think at the end what you're really trying to say is, Is this relevant? Does someone else see this is something they want to be a part of? Um, it's is the strategy. Clear story is, is strategy. Strategy is story, and the final thing I'd say is these benefits. It's got to be about the reader. It's not about yourself. Ah, and I find this. If anyone here is doing sales pitches as part of your business, the kiss of death for any sales thing is just to go in and talk about how great you are, how great your company is, how great your product is, I find this. Usually what happens is somebody who has been in sales and overseen sales teams will spend about 50 minutes talking about how great we are, how great our product is, all the features and then at the end, the last five or 10 minutes ago. But enough about us. We want to hear about you. What do your needs? What do your problems? So a good story has to have that baked into it. Here's the way I think of a good story. It's a way of saying it's an aspiration for the future. Here's what we're trying to accomplish. Here's where we see the world going. Here's Here's where we're going. Follow me, then you gotta go. Well, why should I follow you? Why do Why do I care about you? Where did you come from? So there has to be a bit of history. Why you? What do you bring specifically that need for emotion? The ability to t share with someone? Not just the logical elements, but the emotional elements I find this is also really a good way. If you're trying to sell something, let's say you're part of a team and you're you've got one of those gatekeeper bosses and they don't necessarily wanted. You're afraid they're not going to go for the idea. Sometimes write it up as an announcement, as if it's already been done. Here's the announcement of what we're doing today. We launched this new product, or today we formed this new team, and here is the quote. It's a way to make it, really, And even if even if you're Boston wouldn't go for hopefully they'll give you a bit a little bit of extra benefit for being creative and trying to synthesize and tell them all the benefits of why you need to do it. So I'm telling you this because I think it's a good discipline Teoh to get into. And then now I want toe kind of challenge you a bit more. So, um, I am went into, ah, a couple of years ago, it's stuck with me. The story went into a local farmers market and and there were these two different kinds of strawberries and one was like twice the price, and the proprietor gave me this a beautiful story. He said, Oh my gosh, those strawberries first you have to taste one. Aren't they amazing? Do you know? This morning, this young farmer girl, she got up at dawn. She gingerly picked those strawberries. She dusted them off with her little cloth gingerly into the basket. Give justice on and on this story. And I imagine this little girl kissing each strawberry, making it so much sweeter. I knew what she looked like. I think she was from Pennsylvania Dutch Amish country. I had this whole story that I imagined, and so I yes, pay double the price. It is incredibly gingerly treated. Beautiful strawberries. I hope this story was really was a reputable person. But I I hope it was a real story. And I think we all have those kind of examples where you often are introduced to something because you bought the story first. And so I think it's essential that you know how to tell a good story, but yeah, it has to also be true, right? I'm not here proposing that you tell stories about things that aren't true. But I think in the course of making change and sort of positioning yourself to change what's the story you want to be telling? So, um a couple of things. One is I start my book with a very personal story about myself. I talk about being in my mid twenties and deciding to get a divorce. I was a young mother. My husband and I married my college sweetheart. We had a lovely daughter, but I woke up one day and realized this story I was living was not the story I had envisioned for myself. I grew up in a small town, small town, good girl, and I was a small town good girl who want to see the world incredibly curious. I wanted to explore, and I felt there was a disconnect between the story. I was living in the story I wanted to live, so I had to take hold of my story. And today I stand before you, somebody who still really is that small town good girl. But I've also been able to see the world and to own a new story. And so that's to the child to kind of threads. I want to sort of connect today for a series of challenges I'd like to do with you. The 1st 1 is how do you add more storytelling and how you go about your daily life. So I'd like you to think of something. A your version of the little farm girl picking the strawberries. Um, something in everyday life that you've seen. Maybe you were taking the train to get here today. There was somebody in front of you. Or maybe you'll do it on your way home. Tonight. You'll be on the bus or the train, and I want you to imagine a story of them or you're flying home. What's the pilot? What's his story? Where did come from? Why is he flying your pot? Your plane? Where is he going? So I'd like you to think about, um, a bit of, ah storytelling challenge that you're going to give yourself and challenge yourself on a regular basis. Hot. That's really interesting. Ken is going to Cuba. She's about to go take a trip to Cuba. What might Kenneth's story be like in Cuba? And I'd start to imagine all kinds of amazing things. It gives me a whole new rich texture to think about. Kenna, of having these other dimensions to her as an explorer is going to go off on a vacation to Cuba. Um, part of why I'm telling this is you have to be able to tell your story. No one is going to tell your story for you if you don't, Whether you're selling yourself, your product, your team, your company and I think we see this writ large in politics, we see this. That happens in companies where other people start to tell their stories and it gets ahead of them. You have to be able to tell your story back to where we said earlier. You need a champion, somebody who's telling your story. They can't come up with that on their own. They need you to tell them this is what I'm doing. Why I'm doing so. The challenge I'm giving you is one start to make storytelling a part of how you see the world. Who's somebody you're going to pick today to write a story about what's inspired them? Where did they come from, where they going? And then I want you to write your story. Imagine I see you on the street tomorrow walking down ah Street and I come up and I say, Hey, gauge. Hey, what's your story? We're going to say to me. You have to tell me now. But you can if you want to. What's your story? And hopefully your story would be I came from here. I'm going there. I'm challenged with this. I'm good at that. I need your help in this. Think how good it can be. And so in changed. I mean, you know, the sort of classic change story that people talk about Is John F. Kennedy saying to everybody we're going to the moon? He was able to galvanize the whole country to think they were going to the moon. And if you worked in it and you worked in janitorial services and NASA, you felt as much invested in going to the moon as the astronauts did. That's the power of a story. Everybody has one, and it starts with you. I'm gonna take a minute and just I don't expect you to write your story out here, but I'd like toe prompt you to take a few notes about what goes into your story. Maybe there's someone else. You've seen who, um Who? You're inspired by their story. What's what's the story? Part of what you're trying to do is make the invisible visible you're trying to bring to life things people can't appreciate or see without that connection to an emotion. So good stories have humor. Maybe there's mystery. Your pilot on the flight tomorrow is wondering what the mystery is. Where is he going? Does he know? I, um I once flew back from a pilot who came on and told us the good news. We lost autopilot, but he was. The good news is he's one of only a dozen pilots certified for this airline to fly without autopilot. What a great story he had, right? What? Where did he come from? Why did he like flying without autopilot? Did he like, anyways, everything is an opportunity for a story E. I used to like Teoh to challenge my team to say after we had a good idea. Okay, who wants to put this into a story? Whether is a press release or a story? How are we gonna take this down the hall and tell other people What's the story of what what we're trying to accomplish here? It's a good way to turn it into a team challenge. Get your teams to say who can come up with the best story about what we're what we're trying to dio. So stories have emotion. It's about where you came from, where you're going. One of my favorites is that Ernest Hemingway line where apparently he was given a challenge to write the most emotion in the least amount of words. He'd be a great twitter to degrade Tweeter today, but his story was for sale. Baby shoes never worn. So that's what you're trying to get Teoh in terms of telling your story. Who are you? A bit of mystery, a bit of entry.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Imagine It Forward Toolkit

Ratings and Reviews

Julie Hankes

Wow, this class was such a privilege to be a part of! There are so many gems in here, but what I loved most, is that she opened my thinking even bigger and offered me tricks and tips to facilitate that for myself and others long into the future. This is a tremendous gift as I'm already pretty outside of the box (i.e. I just took a client kayaking and then out in a seaplane yesterday for a visioning session) and creative in my work, so yes, what a gift! She also profoundly underscores the vital role the creative/imaginary mindset plays in the role of innovation and greeting our world's most wild challenges and opportunities. What a joy, have shared her work with many since this class took place. Thank you Beth for your courageous offering of imagination and championing it's vital role in our everyday work place and in our world's next steps into a more thriving, creative and innovative future!

Arthur Yakumo

I really enjoy this class. If you want a mind shift, having difficult seeing opportunities in front of you, especially living and working in a corporate job, this class is for you. Working for a fortune 500 job, I see how work is constantly changing, I didn't see the opportunities and how we can influence the change or be part of the change. This class helps you see and be part of the changing job revolution.

Christine Denker

If you want a mind shift to create change for yourself or your organization, then this class is a no-brainer! As a middle school English Language Arts teacher, I thought about how I could apply the concepts Beth teaches to my students who I have the privilege of interacting with daily. As a writer, I thought about how much I'm holding myself back and how I need to give myself permission to try new things knowing I'm going to fail and it's okay to do so. I really appreciated this course and had several takeaways that I can't wait to implement.

Student Work