Here’s a small but precious gem from last week’s Thrivability Camp. My co-host Belina Raffy shared some basic rules of improv, one of which was “keep the story moving.” As our group lived out this principle in a variety of playful ways, it struck me that it would make a powerful approach to consulting and strategy development. Instead of the standard approach of assessing an organization like a broken machine and looking for ways to fix it, imagine if we asked, “What would move this organization’s story forward in interesting ways?”

In fact, at the Camp, there was an accomplished documentary filmmaker, Sylvie Van Brabant of RapideBlanc, who shared what she’s learned about how to tell a good story:

  • Go in with the genuine intention of serving the story, not with a purely journalistic or self-serving approach.
  • Engage a community to weave multiple perspectives into the story.
  • Give people hope, in part by highlighting heroes that they can relate to.
  • Show transformation.

Her advice fits naturally with the most engaging and powerful approaches to developing organizational strategy and to community engagement.

How much would this approach honor what is already present and alive in an organization or community? Wouldn’t it invite us to notice more of the context than we might in traditional approaches to strategic planning? Wouldn’t crafting a story together inspire valuable creativity and collaboration? How much would it encourage us to recognize the dynamic, unfolding nature of living organizations? How beautifully would it make heroic cause an obvious necessity?

Looking back at notes from a planning conversation about the Thrivability Camp, I see that we asked, “Why are we getting together?” and the answer from someone was: “We’re trying to re-story who we are… how we feel it and hold it in our guts and heart.” This is the power of story – it’s immersive and visceral.

“What would move our collective story forward in interesting ways?” I find this a potent and wonderfully playful question.

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