As the new year begins, it’s time to ask about your future story. Call it a “vision story” if you like, because it will probably be more motivating and memorable than organizational mission and vision statements, which often sit on dusty shelves.
Future stories are guiding north stars, serving as bridges from your past to your future. Telling others about the unfinished stories you’re most enthusiastic to complete gives energy and momentum to your business.
Keep it Simple
A classic future story that you probably already know is MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. You may not necessarily be doing Nobel Prize-worthy work like Dr. King, but future stories are just as important to your organization’s success.
No long sagas needed. Keep it simple and connect from the past or present to the future. When I was developing a new learning program for recent hires several years ago, I found that “Claire’s Parking Lot” story was one the most powerful examples of the early success of our beta program.
After visiting a customer along with an experienced peer who had not participated in the pilot learning, Claire told us that the experienced salesperson stopped her in the parking lot, astonished. “You were asking all these questions and having conversations with the client about stuff I’m not even up to speed on. How do you know so much more than I do about the industry when you’ve only been here six months, and I’ve been here four years?” asked the veteran salesperson. “The new pilot program!” Claire told her proudly.
When sharing the pilot program concept, I would retell Claire’s story and ask, “Can you imagine if every one of our salespeople could learn like Claire has?” This simple story resonated in a way that pages of slides and charts could not.
Stories Guide Behavior
Future stories work for external and internal groups. Use them with sales prospects, partners, investors, employees and more. Most importantly, use them with yourself.
About his book, “The Redemptive Self,” Northwestern University psychology professor Dan McAdams says, “When we first started studying life stories, people thought it was just idle curiosity – stories, isn’t that cool? Well, we find that these narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.”
Businesses that understand their history can better chart their future, too. When I take client groups through StoryMining process, six of the seven question areas are retrospective; stories with a sense of completion. The seventh is future stories.
To get you started StoryMining your future story, begin with this short list of questions from the Aizuchi Playbook. The full 111 page Aizuchi Playbook is free to subscribers. Review the StoryMining questions below by yourself and with your teams. You might be surprised by some of the responses!
What could we achieve this year that would astonish our competition and our customers?
What is the most important single thing we could do next?
How would you like to see this organization fulfill its purpose in the coming year?
What is something our business can accomplish this year that no other business can do?
What’s the next project that really excites you?
Make a plan. What’s your future story for the coming year? Resolve to develop and share your brand story for 2013.
Photo courtesy of Radar Communication