The Six Elements of Your Innovation Story

August 20, 2020

In our “Storytelling Skills for Innovators” workshop, Evan Schwartz shares the six different choices that innovators must make when telling their stories. He then asks the group to apply these skills in an interactive exercise at the end of the presentation. 

Schwartz is an author, journalist, and the former Director of Storytelling at Innosight. 

  1. Pick a protagonist. When telling a story, Schwartz suggests that innovators start by picking a protagonist. Is that person the CEO, your innovation team, or the company itself? “[Choosing] a really compelling protagonist flashes insights into the world of the character and creates empathy,” Schwartz says.
  2. Choose the catalyst. “What is throwing the world that you know off balance, that creates this challenge?” Schwartz asks. According to Schwartz, this call to adventure typically happens early in the story. 
  3. Identify a mentor. This character teaches the protagonist skills and shares their wisdom. Schwartz points to Obi-Wan from Star Wars and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings as examples. At a company, it could be someone within providing guidance, an outside force that lends a hand, a role model company, or a historical example that guides the team.
  4. Find the barrier. “You have to have…the main obstacle, the villain, the Darth Vader, that’s standing in your way,” Schwartz says. “This journey can’t be easy. If it’s too easy or if it seems easy, it’s just not going to be interesting.”
  5. Share the transformation. “How would you describe the vision that you’re aiming for? That you’re driving your organization towards?” Schwartz asks. 
  6. Present an enduring lesson. According to Schwartz, this lesson should be a takeaway from the story that remains in the listeners’ minds.