20130114 Ensenada, Mexico – Hilo, Hawaii. Multiple storytelling and how to build meaningful relationships.

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Dear family, friends and readers.

It’s been many days without news, getting over initial sea motion dizziness, getting used to the times of food on board, travelling through timezones and getting to know people enough to now focus back on our work and growing our product, strategy, company and community.

Mapping competences

Mapping the competences chain

We started day 4 by mapping the competences in the room to see how each of us could become a ressource to others. The competences were  mapped on the typical lifecycle of product :

  1. Concept
  2. Development
  3. Market
  4. Support / Maintenance

Many of us are capable of supporting different parts of the process and write their names under different moments of the life of the product. Each of us also have so much to learn !

Storytelling dynamics

This is how you think, this is how they listen

We had half a day covering story-telling ; with George Kembel about “narration dynamics”, Daniel Epstein on “how to make a story sticky” and Hunter Lovins on “scenario building” or “how to multiply your companies strategies, save the environment and your economic ass” as she puts it.

George Kembel started by suggesting that we tend to present our company and technology the way we think, but what we really need to do is talk the way the people listen, if we want to be effective at all. And that holds truth for how we speak to our :

  • team
  • supplier
  • clients
  • anyone!

Dynamic narration workshop notes

Kembel told us about the narrative emotional dynamic a presentation needs to have. That means, even if our offer is all positive, it is a “necessary evil” to take our audience through emotional variations, retain their attention, surprise, comfort and enlighten them… So some of our discourse should feel negative, some should feel positive and these ups and downs should be really felt clearly. In fact it is really easy to find these oppositions of negative and positive if you are a proposing a solution to a problem, or tell a story of failure and successes.

Dynamic narration workshop notes
We were presented only one narration emotional structure (that was very much one of an american blockbuster movie with a happy ending), but I felt that it is precisely by following this prescribed classic dynamic that we would prevent any sense of surprise to operate on our audience. I have been loving the work of visual composers such as Xenakis or Stockhausen and I feel inspired by how they created emotional variations, surprises and powerful compositions through structured creativity. So, now when I tell a story I pay attention to these dynamics and I try to play with “non-conventional” narrative dynamics.

  • Last week we understood that product are : People, Need, Insight
  • This week we learned that stories are dynamic message delivery : people, build, tension, reveal

but both products and stories start with people.

In another class of “global entrepreneurship” Kembel, took us through a fuller design thinking process. Design being not the capacity to draw a product, an object, but designing the creative process itself, thinking creatively. Unlocking everyone’s creative potential.
Studying Design Thinking and Unreasonable Entrepreneurship on the MV Explorer

The cycle that Kembel proposed was to :

  1. Start with Empathy, asking questions such as “what is it that makes your life difficult, why?”
  2. Define “what are the ways you are struggling and what does it do to you?”
  3. Ideate “propose ideas, or ways to solve this problem with empathy, creativity and playfulness”
  4. Prototype “just with text, doodle, paper and glue, but make the idea more tangible”
  5. Test “present the prototype to the person you’re talking to and discuss it….”
  6. And as you present the prototype, renew the discussion again,  with empathy, trying to evaluate if your solution is satisfactory. Ideally, the prototype would be put to a real test, and the cycle should be as short as possible and repeated until both parties are entirely satisfied.

This is a general method, but we reckon it can be adapted for a number of processes.

Kembel used the compelling example of Jane Chen‘s D-School Company “Embrace” that builds baby warmers. Embrace uses this empathy and innovation cycle to create both a product and a service with the human / baby at the center.


“How to make a story sticky by Daniel Epstein

meeting on the deck

Epstein presented some important principles of “how to “make a story sticky” :

  1. Simplicity. One thing. We know all the things that are good, but only pitch one, that is imparable. Be the master of exclusion.
  2. Unexpectedness. Most deadly animal?  Bears? Sharks? Dears? Dears! So save the Sharks!
  3. Concreteness. Business statement. They dont go viral. Story of that mum that invented razors in apples during halloween. Like a proverb. Needs to be
  4. Credibility. Not the numbers, numbers are good when you go deep in the business. You have to teach entrepreneurship outside of the classroom. Einstein “I do not teach students, I create the conditions in which students learn”. Quotes of famous people.
  5. Emotional. Make people cry. Story of pop-corn with butter : bad for health. Show a table covered with food that contain the same amount of fat.
  6. Story Telling.

A simple easy to memorise this :

Story telling

= Spelling mistake are no mistakes if they lead to success :)

In another class Daniel Epstein, told us “How to build meaningful relationships”. These are a few tips from Daniel and other people present in the room. Building meaningful relationships is :

  • About being human. It’s has to be personal.
  • Everyone is the messiah. The person you are talking to is the most interesting person in the room and your job is to find out why.
  • Listening is the most important. Let the person go first, you listen. Don’t ask “what do you do?” ask “what motivates you?”, so you can go deeper.
  • Being authentic : Ask only if you are genuinely interested. (Kembel)
  • Keeping your friends and enemy close. If you have a problem with someone, talk with them.
  • Body language : lean into the conversation. Takes notes about what the other person tells you. Dont check your phone.
  • Being vulnerable. we connect better with people we can connect. The shadow of the strengh is usually a weakness. Question such as “what is the greatest misperception have of you?”. Renee Brown : Every act of courage from a vulnerable place.
  • Being transparent. If you are terrified, say it. Reframe everything as an experiment.
  • Don’t hide your excitement. Being stocked. We dedicate our lives to our work.   Presenting as an experiment, that removes the arrogance. Confidence in what you don’t know.
  • Show that we can care for ourselves. Recovery time. (Kembel)
  • Present the opportunity. Steve Jobs talking to Skoll, to get him to work for Apple. He asked : do you want to continue selling sugar water to kids, or do you want to change the world with us?
  • It is not about they “help you”, but it is about the opportunity you present to them, the adventure you will share together. So you present an opportunity that resonnates with someone deep motivation. (Moussine)
  • Make a move. Make the ask.
  • Follow up, follow through. That will differentiate you from 99% of the others.
  • Be persistent.  Until you get an answer.

Combining powerful storytelling and authentic empathy can really help building a deep and significant relationships.


Hunter Lovins, Scenario making and interview

Hunter Lovins, scenario workshop

The story is not the truth.
Forecast fails.
The map is not the territory.
Shell (the oil company)proceeds not by one scenario, but by multiples scenari. The scenari take into account not only their own market indicators but many “bigger indicators”. Shell tries to identify the drivers of change. Looking for the causes of the causes.

The scenario matrix is very simple : a canvas divided in 4 mutually exclusive world scenario, written by 4 different teams, inventing the headlines of these different worlds they imagine. In this exercise, we used on the horizontal axe : left high economy, right low economy. Vertical axe up fast climate change, down slow climate change. 4 possible extreme scenarios that are most likely to happen simultaneously in different places in the world. As a global company you want your offer, your products and reach to be in the centre, to cover the 4 potential simultaneous world scenarios – to build resilience.
What is critical in business are uncertainties, let’s call these “black swans”. Black Swans are unlikely events that would have a high impact on your market and business. What are the black swans and what can they do for your business?

The overall workshop was a very good opportunity to rethink our business strategy on the long term in a global context. If we have a technology that can impact the life of millions, it is almost a moral obligation to weight our potential long term impact.

On day 6, Hunter Lovins answered a long public interview with Daniel Epstein. Here is one question she answered :

>> Daniel Epstein : What sparked your passion combatting climate change?
_ Hunter Lovins : I am 63 years old. I don’t know I had a choice. I grew up to be an activist. I was raised in the middle of the sustainability movement. I studied law and I got very involved in understanding energy cost. We cannot afford to raise temperature above a  2.5 Celcius. That corresponds to emitting 557 Gigatons of carbon. The current oil in the inventory is ten times more than this. And you guess the agenda of oil companies is to burn that oil. The World Bank and MIT agree : we have locked an increase of 2 Celcius by the carbon we’ve already emitted and we are now looking at locking 6 Celcius with all it’s dramatic consequences.

We cannot wait for politicians. But I believe we can do it. But it’s going to take everyone of you to make it happen.
Let’s assume that scientists are wrong and climate change is not happening. We still need to make it happen. If it is a hoax we’d make money, if it is true we’d make money and save the planet.

With George Kembel, we learned how to use empathy to make up a creative story.
With Daniel Epstein, we learned how we can make a story “sticky” and build a meaningful relationships.
With Hunter Lovins we learned that one story, even if it is empathic or sticky, is not enough. We need to think through multiple scenari to build not only relationships but also build resilience.

I feel increasingly privileged to be on this journey and experiencing such a dense learning experience. I apologize if my courses notes are scattered and will do my best to have a style that flows better in the next posts.

{ 2 comments to read ... please submit one more! }

  1. Tien Dao Thuy

    Nice summary! Keep the good job! :)

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