What do Steph Curry, Luke Skywalker, and Mila Jovovich in The Fifth Element have in common?
They're all heroes. Steph mastered the outside shot, Luke harnessed the force, and Mila wields the ultimate weapon – love – to defend Earth against the great evil.
We root for the heroes - they inspire, move us to their side and we are content to wander with them on their journey. When businesses are heroes, they create engaged customers, build press & media swell and ultimately create more profits. Yet businesses struggle to be both understood and relatable because they can't get their story straight.
Using the hero's journey, pioneered by Joseph Campbell, master of myth and storytelling – allows our clients to quickly frame their narrative in a cohesive, clear and engaging way. It turns them into the hero they want to be. A hero's journey - setting out to face fantastical odds to lose and win but ultimately emerge triumphant - is the one of the oldest narratives in humanity.
It can help you and your business frame your story in a way that fuels your team’s motivation, drives greater customer engagement, and takes your vision to a higher order. We would know – we've shared our own Hero's Journey.
And we've seen it work for our clients. By creating the hero's journey for one of our clients, we removed competing stories (and bickering) between the two founders while creating a cohesive brand strategy that could be used throughout the sales cycle, reducing training time. Additionally, the hero's journey became the record for other vendors for creative assets.
Your Business Challenges
Your team works in a linear & analytic-driven fashion - and storytelling feels too fluffy for them.
Great storytellers know how to draw together the thoughts, feeling and emotions from their time and community into a linear format. If you work in an analytical fashion, you can use this framework to capture your feelings, excitement and insight from the process of building your company. Too often teams focus on what they are doing, rather than why they are doing it. A trip through your business’s creation reminds you why you started it in the first place - and renews your team’s excitement in your achievements of the present and your vision for the future. We recommend reaching consensus on your story internally before you present externally. And trust us – pairing your numbers with a narrative will amplify the power of each.
You want to position yourself as a challenger, hero or champion for your industry, as you are combatting the status quo.
Heroes fight for something or someone. Luke Skywalker fought against the evil Empire on behalf of the Rebellion. While you may not have to go up against Darth Vader, you, too, may be fighting on behalf of something bigger than yourself. If so, this framework is for you. It helps define the lines of who you are and who you aren’t – what you stand for and against.
You cannot find consensus on what your story is (and it may be contentious).
As businesses grow and evolve beyond their founding vision, teams can find it difficult to agree on a cohesive narrative for their company. Because the story of who people think they are and what it means to others impacts every decision from product to marketing to partnerships, indecision can begin to wreak havoc on a team who doesn’t understand why their actions and interests aren’t aligned. They begin to jockey for their version of the story to be first - rather than seeking out the commonalities between them.
Create the Hero's Journey
The Hero’s Journey framework takes a team through their origin story, connects it to the present, and asks them to imagine and articulate their future together.
SETTING: Assemble the owners of the business - those responsible for critical decisions, typically at an executive level. Ensure adequate snacks and lighting - mood matters when you're working through intangible and creative storytelling. If you need a post of creativity, consider an unusual environment different from your normal day to day.
- The founders should tell their story first to understand the origin of both their impetus to found their organization and their key business challenges to date.
- All members can begin to move through the next steps, from articulating their “aha” moment to painting their vision for the future.
- Pay close attention to both consensus and contention – each matters. Consensus becomes the foundation or framework for the journey. Where you differ, the team should explore and elaborate, crafting a more specific narrative along the way. We have several techniques for mediating these discussions. Two of our favorites include asking each team member to articulate her or his viewpoint and then looking for overlap, or having each person share her or his ideas and then facilitating a group compromise.
- Appoint a story editor and owner who is responsible for consolidating the work together into the framework.
- Review with a member of the founding team before presenting the cohesive picture back tot he team as a whole.
In our work, the telling of a story simply gets people excited. Team members remember why they started working on the problem in the first place and what continues to excite them about the work today. They feel a renewed importance in sharing their vision to triumph over what is worn out, incorrect, or inadequate in the marketplace. This passion carries over into their work for weeks and months on end, and drives greater growth and engagement of their customers and partners.
Immediately we see:
- Greater alignment and collaboration within the team. In one session, our clients quickly identified 3 major challenges with their product. The Head of Customer Service and the Head of Product agreed on a course of action to address these challenges and developed a strategic plan within the final 30 minutes of our workshop. This in turn lead to rapid growth and a shorter sales cycle for the company.
- Increased press and media engagement. When you can effectively tell your story, you increase the interest of key media outlets. They, too, have a number of competing narratives - if you can show what you are challenging and how and why you will prevail, you’ve already done the hard work for them of creating a compelling human interest narrative. After going through the hero's journey, one founder realized how his own personal narrative of family tragedy lead to creation of the company. His blog post sharing the story was used by the advertising and media teams resulting in an increase in customer acquisition and viral sharing.
- More effective partner engagement, from vendors to strategic partners. Positioning yourself as a hero shows what you are fighting for and on whose behalf you are fighting. It also attracts partners in crime; you don’t succeed on your own as a hero. When starting out with a novel idea, one client used their hero's journey to build a community of first followers who connected the partners in the field to the success of the organization. Within a year, these ideal partners reached out to our client to invite them to guest speaking and other media placements as a trusted scientific resource.
Interested in uncovering your own story of heroism? Download our our Hero's Journey framework below, and let your story unfold. Then drop us a line – we love to hear from heroes!