Public Speaking

    Five Ways to Gain Story Fluency

    5 storyStory Fluency and Innovation

    Every time I blink these days I see another article on story. It’s something of a too popular buzzfad, but for good reason. Clearly, story is important in many aspects of marketing, communication, and innovation. The current literature tends to focus on understanding story, and, aligning a story with a brand, or an organization.

    There is also the related trend of story telling, ala The Moth. I’ve been involved this last year with a similar regional group, Indigan Storyteller here in Michiana, and its been a transformative experience. I’ve written a business novel (Jack’s Notebook) and I can tell you this, I’m still learning to create and tell stories.

    Story is a saw we can all sharpen.

    What doesn’t seem to be covered in the new literature is the concept of story fluency. I’m convinced that understanding, creating, and communicating a story is only done well if one has story fluency. For Five Ways to Gain Story Fluency, see my list below, but first…

    Can we agree that getting a story right — even a true life story — is difficult? If it was easy there wouldn’t be so many articles written, workshops and course offerings about How To. People are seeking story fluency, even if it’s not called that. A workshop can get you started on fluency, but only just. Gaining story fluency, just like guitar playing, only happens with regular practice. I know lots of guitar chords but smooth switching from one to another is not there for me because I don’t practice enough. The same is true for story. Like a song, a story has a structure and it’s important to understand that structure if you want to sing it/tell it well. My KILN partner Kate Hammer, Phd has an excellent method for analyzing context and creating story in her StoryFORMs tool. I would call StoryFORMs a story fluency tool.

    What is story fluency?  It’s the ability to generate stories, for various purposes, quickly and easily. In addition, it’s the ability to examine story options and pick the one that is most authentic and suited to purpose. Fluency means generating lots of story versions and variations. This divergent thinking is important because getting a story right means experimenting with story content, meaning, and, how to tell it. Simply put, it’s about the getting the right words in the right order. The convergent thinking piece of evaluating which specific way to tell a story is most appropriate, is critical. It’s critical because all the versions in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t select the most appropraite one.

    The link to innovation is this: a poorly told story about a new product, company policy change, a new service, a brand re-introduction, a process improvement, or even your personal life choices — is likely to fail. It’s quite sad to see a good idea flop at the last second because it hasn’t been positioned well.

    I’ll say it again, gaining story fluency only happens with practice. If you want to leverage the power of story, you have to practice.

    Like so many creative endeavors, many of us are prone to try to get things right with a story immediately out of the gate. It’s unlikely you will get it right the first time, and, our tendency is to criticize ourselves when we don’t. Of course, this negative mindset makes it less likely your second version will be full of life and self-expression. Like all things creative, it’s best to diverge first and converge afterwards…anyway, here are:

    Five Ways to Gain Story Fluency

    1. Build Awareness of Story. As you go through your day, asking yourself what’s the story related to the things you see and hear. What’s the story behind that brand of bread you toast? What’s the story of the radio show you listen to? What’s your own story? What’s your story related to exercise? There is a story behind everything, build awareness by paying attention. Listen to The Moth Story Hour.
    2. Understand the basics of story structure.  There’s more to story than beginning, middle, and end. Knowing how stories tend to work will enhance your own ability to create dynamic stories that conform to social expectations.
    3. When articulating a new story, try several versions with friendly listeners. This is the divergent piece, don’t be in a hurry to get it down pat in a day — you’ll learn something each time you tell a story. As you tell your story, notice what people respond to, notice where in  a story you get the “doe eyes.” Adapt and revise your story. Try again. With complex messages you’ll need to do this many times. Be patient, you’ll get there. Experiment, play.
    4. When selecting a story version, have clear criteria for selection, then choose. What do you need your story to accomplish? Is it brand awareness? Is it empathy? Humor? Is it a link to corporate values? Work through your criteria, then pick the story version that fits best. Be thoughtful and don’t rule out the radically different until you’ve given yourself time to get used to that very different version of the story.
    5. Practice storytelling before it’s an emergency. If you wait to create and tell a story until that moment when you are in desperate need, you’ll not be ready. Tell stories for the fun of it, all the time, and you’ll be ready when the moment comes. Try out various forms of storytelling, in writing, on stage, in small groups, one on one, via Twitter, video etc.

    So tell your story, and tell it often.

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    Have You Made the Creative Choice?

    Have you made the Creative Choice? There is a ton of written material about creativity and innovation. I make an effort to keep up with the waves of literature — there’s a new methodology, a new process, fresh brain research, best practices, anti-best practices, etc. Some of this literature is quite good. There is also stuff about how creativity relates to mysticism and spirituality, also quite interesting. Finally there is also a good deal of useless, boring drivel that only reinforces unhelpful mythology about creativity. If you intend to be more creative and to use that capacity to innovate, I would encourage you to read widely and make your own judgments, but don’t get lost in all the words, don’t

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    Take Advantage — Innovate More for Less

    I’ve done 385 general interest creativity and innovation posts in the last few years. This post is different — it contains a commercial offer — albeit a fairly innovative one. If you’re not interested please ignore this post. Here’s the offer – I’ve decided to double the value I provide to my customers by offering a good old fashioned two-for-one deal. Why? I want to generate more buzz about my service offerings. To generate more buzz I want the perception of my value to be exceptional. So exceptional that people will talk , tweet, and refer. There is no sleight of hand here, I’ll be working twice for one fee. For both services delivered I won’t be cutting preparation time or the customization I

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    Ted Nugent Lacks Creativity

    The Golden Triangle of Inanity I’ve resisted the urge to write an enraged post about the inflammatory comments made in recent weeks by Ted Nuget, Sarah Palin, and Duck Dynasty guy, Phil Robertson. I call them The Golden Triangle of Inanity (GTA). Many writers and observers have responded to their words in kind, so, I guess that base is covered. I had the notion to take Ted Nugent’s recent statement (called Obama a “subhuman mongrel”) on word for word, and then I thought, it’s not worth the energy. Why spread around even more negativity? Suffice to say I think the recent statements of the GTA are crass, ignorant, and grossly inappropriate. If you believe that these celebrities are speaking out

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    Building Bridges in Oklahoma

    Briefly noted: Registration is open for the fourth annual State of Creativity Forum. The main day is Tuesday, November 19th. It’s in Oklahoma City — but make no mistake — this is now an international event. This conference is 1000+ people from all parts of the country and around the world. It has a strong speakers list, a vibrant exhibit hall, and a palpable energy. The theme this year is Building Bridges, and it is an apt one for a diverse state like Oklahoma. Also apt in that it’s always a challenge to bridge the gap between creative people and productive innovation. This kind of conference is a great way to cross that chasm. It’s still a very affordable price

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    Luke Williams at World Innovation Forum (a review)

    The following is a review of Luke Williams talk at the recent World Innovation Forum. Roving reporter and colleague Dr. Orin Davis gives Luke high marks as both a speaker/entertainer, AND as an innovation expert, high praise indeed. I’d not heard of Luke Williams, apparently he’s a fellow at Frog Design, an author, and a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. I’m putting his “Disrupt” on my reading list. Here’s Orin’s report: ************** Disrupt Yourself!  Luke Williams at the World Innovation Forum by Orin Davis, Phd I note in jest that what Luke Williams primarily proved at his WIF talk is that showing pictures of babies doing really cute things, like trying to dance to Beyoncé’s “All the Single Ladies,” gets

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    Innovating Congress: Elect Intelligence & Competence

    As the on-going battle between parties in the congress winds on, it occurs to me that USA citizens might want to change how and why they vote for a representative. We’ve got it wrong. We voted for Gridlock! Representatives in a republic are not supposed to “do your bidding.” No, they’re supposed to Think and Act For You. When you elect someone to vote a specific way on a specific issue what you’re doing is closing down creativity, opportunity, and solutions. It’s the opposite of innovative. Let’s ignore party entirely. How about if we vote for intelligence, competency, and effectiveness? Let’s ignore specific positions on one issue. Let’s be more holistic, and, let’s vote for people who really know something. I

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    Why Make the Creative Choice?

    I believe that one of the most fundamental choices a human being can make relates to creativity. The choice is: do I wish to be a creative person or not? It would seem to be a no-brainer, but it’s interesting that at least half of people I talk to make the choice to Not be a creative person. This is done without a lot of thought, but sometimes it’s deliberate. Oh shame! For a long time I’ve taken for granted that people would want to be creative, but now I’m getting that there are reasons why folks might go the other way. Here are those reasons:   I don’t want the pressure of people looking to me for creative options

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    Gonzeaux #8 — Florida

    I spent most of the past week in the great state of Florida. While I hardly exhausted the potential of it’s vast expanse and endless coastline, I did get a gonzeaux dose of it. The FEI 2012 Conference lived up to it’s billing and reputation as the “serious” innovation conference. Hard to summarise, but let me try: great, insightful, relevant speakers, interesting interactions with both participants and vendors, and lots of fun and conversations around the edges. All about innovation of course. It’s expensive, but it you’re serious about innovation at your organisation and want to be aware of trends in the “industry” it’s well worth going. I made some great connections for KILN, which was my personal goal in

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    Michigan Innovation — Gonzeaux Tour Begins

    Three Oaks, Michigan, Monday May 7 — Gonzeau Tour Begins I’ve spent a frantic weekend preparing for the Gonzeaux Tour trip to Florida to attend the FEI 2012 Conference*. Two requests for proposal came over the transom on Friday and they required weekend work, and a lot of it. I had hoped for a bit of peace and thoughtful packing prior to what might be a week of cheap hotels, crashing with friends and family, but it was not to be. So, the first leg begins in an hour and I haven’t even packed a bag yet. I do have piles of stuff to take: KILN IdeaKeg boxes, large mural paper, Post-it’s, iPad, iPod, Garmin, pocket knives, sunflower seeds, water,

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