Story-Strategy, Act 2 Episode 5 – The Journey: Possibilities 2
When you want someone to buy into a new idea, one of the steps you take is to let them dream of new possibilities. You paint a picture of what it can be like if they accept your ideas/model/product.
The same thing happens when Cinderella gets an invitation from the prince to his ball. People begin to hope that things can be different in a good way – that just maybe their dreams can come true.
What happens in the brain when people dream of new possibilities?
Why does the brain like to hope?
Is it the sense of power over circumstances ie a rise in status? (S in SCARF model)
Is it the return of a sense of autonomy: that I can choose differently? (A in SCARF model)
Is it simply a positive emotion that lifts the spirits? (E in AGES model)
I have asked neuroscience expert Manie Bosman from the Strategic Leadership Institute to comment and will post his reply as soon as I have it.
In the mean time here are 3 ways to Call your audience to the adventure of new possibilities:
Room Set up
You will remember that you have to help your audience across two thresholds when you begin: the threshold of their life outside the room into the learning space and secondly the threshold from hwat they currently belive about the story in the room to the new ideas you are sharing.
To help with the first threshold, you once again start with things like room set-up, material design and so forth. Peter Block knows how to do this. His room set-up for his Community Conversations process is very clear: chairs must be arranged in groups of four facing each other. No tables. Natural lighting, soft drapery where possible, pictures on the walls and movable chairs. All these things tell the audience that other possibilities are open to them – ones that are not usually open in a traditionally set up room cinema style with a big projector screen in front, a podium for the speaker controlled lighting etc. The entire room calls the audience to have community conversations: the new idea he is ‘selling’.
Metaphors now and then
In a values alignment process with a wine export company, we asked participants to choose pictures that illustrate a) what the organisation looks like when its values are being lived by everyone in it and b) when the values are not being lived by all. We then asked them to share first in two’s then in fours what they had chosen and why. The groups then had to pick the two pictures that most closely represent everyone in the group’s thoughts. They then shared their pictures with the entire group.
Next we placed all the pictures of the ideal reality on one end of the room and the others on the other end of the room. Then we asked them to see it as a continuum between the two extremes. Each person could then go and stand on the continuum to express where he or she thinks they are as functioning currently (current reality). How close or how far from the ideal are they? The next question was: Do you want to say anything about where you place yourself?
From past experience we knew that this exercise often creates a lot of conversation as different people view the organisation differently. In this particular group one individual placed himself squarely on the ideal reality side. Everyone fought with him asking how he could say that tey had all arrived there when they experience so much discord. He frowned at them and then said: but are these values not built into all of us? Is the dream not living in you as it lives in me? That is what gets me through my day.
The ideal he voiced there was one of the most powerful expressions of a Call to Adventure I ever heard. It could not to come from us in a more powerful way.
Reflecting on a story
From the previous blog you know that using a story can be very effective in issuing a Call. If you are able to involve people in the story by asking a reflective question, you make the brain even happier. Stories grab attention, generate connections and evoke emotion (A, G and E of the AGES model) but participation generates even more connections as well as adding Relatedness (R of SCARF).
I used the story of The Rose with a group of women in Leadership with DUKE Corporate Education and asked them to share in three’s the following two questions: “What emotions came up for you as you listened?” And “Why would I tell you this story at a leadership conference?”
Whatever answers I get, it is not hard to use them to dream of futures where we can rise above the contradictions that we face daily. Interestingly in this particular group one of the participants had to leave in the break before my session because her sister’s son had been caught in their security gate that morning and was in a coma in hospital. One of the responses to my second question was: “It comforts me to think that there can be happiness in death today. It allows me to stay hopeful and focus on the work we need to do here.”
A well chosen story can have exactly the effect you want even though it does not give you the answer you want. IF people are given the opportunity to connect their personal stories to the story in the room, learning can stick.