Anything is possible

If you’d asked me three months ago how I’d run a strategic storytelling workshop, remotely, with eight out of nine of the group wearing face masks, during a global pandemic, I would have said it was impossible. But this photo is evidence it can be done. What’s more the group’s “trophy stories” were brought to life by a graphic illustrator ( Eliot Lee,  in red, bottom right). 

That workshop, the culmination of 4+ months working with the president and leadership team at the luxury retailer Lane Crawford  was a pivotal moment for me. 

When the graphic of the trophy stories was revealed there was a collective outburst of laughter, recognition, joy. The power of stories + image + surprise was palpable from where I sat in my office in Sydney. 

It was a kind of… anything is possible moment…
A let-me-get-out-of-my-head kind of moment. I think we’re all having a lot of them right now. 

Taking a risk 

Lane Crawford, a heritage luxury department store, with a distributed workforce across Hong Kong and China, is rapidly becoming an industry leader in responsible fashion. 

In 2019 I worked with President Andrew Keith and his leadership team to help them develop their Story 1.0. that brought to life their strategy. Andrew and his team see storytelling as pivotal in how they show love and share the love with their customers. This year, we co-created Story 2.0.

During a time of immense disruption, this helped bring alignment and a sense of excitement to the organisation.   

The experience of working with them has helped shape how I want to work. And I’m excited to share what that looks like when I soon reveal my new Wordstruck website — with a new suite of storytelling programs. 

Even if I don’t fully know an outcome, it’s about finding other ways to introduce an element of spectacle, playfulness and spontaneity to how we communicate. This is especially needed in Zoom after Zoom meeting where things are in danger of becoming one-dimensional. It’s about creating deeper connection and taking a risk. 

Seizing the moment

Like any company’s story, Lane Crawford’s journey is evolving at pace. This year it celebrates 170 years in business. Yet, the fashion industry is embattled right now: consumer spend is down, stock languishes in warehouses, buying teams can’t travel and fashion shows are going “phygital”. 

Last week, Andrew Keith, together with designer Dries van Noten and Altuzarra chief executive Shira Sue Carmi called for change. They published an open letter to address one of fashion’s systemic issues — discounting in the middle of the season rather than at the end. They hope it will shift the global industry to a more environmental and socially sustainable approach. 

In less than 2 weeks, the letter has attracted over 1000 signatories, garnered  global press coverage,  and triggered a “rewiring” of the industry by  Business of Fashion.

Aside from the importance of the initiative and the courage to make it happen, what I appreciate — from a comms perspective — is that the group didn’t have all the answers. But they acted anyway. 

We are witnessing that a lot. Politicians are creating policies on the hoof, business leaders are moving entire workforces to digital in a matter of days. Sure, there are wobbly moments, but this galvanising to make things work is so refreshing. 


So what happens when you don’t know the full story? 8 things to do anyway. 

1. Meet people where they are at. We’ve got a scripted speech and yet when we stand up, we forget to read the mood. 

2. If you don’t know the mood, check in. Ask. Openly or offline. 

3. Then when you know the mood, meet people there. 

4. Say upfront you don’t know the full story. That the story is evolving. That you’ll keep people updated. 

5. Show how that makes you feel. Butterflies? Anxious? Excited? Reveal your vulnerability about not fully knowing. 

6. Explain some of the process of how you made the decision. Even if you didn’t have all the facts to hand. 

7. If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer. That’s okay. Answer as best you can, take the person’s name and get back to them. 

8. Recognise that if you don’t know the full story and there’s a vacuum, people will fill it with their own stories…

So don’t wait. 

I’m not going to either. I’ll be sharing more about my Wordstruck website relaunch very soon!   

Reframe Your Story to Reframe Our Future

Watch comedian Michael Jr. illustrate how to reframe

Before the pandemic we all did things in a certain way. You, me, everyone on the planet has an inner script directing our lives. Often, that’s helpful. From an evolutionary perspective it means we don’t have to think too much (tiring the brain); it creates stability. 

In a matter of weeks this script has been torn up. 

It’s the lack of apparent individual control combined with the collective shared experience that makes this time in our lives so pivotal. Many of the normal things we took for granted: going to school, commuting to work, visiting our loved ones, have been disrupted.

Normally, our lives are punctuated by stress/health/financial issues individually.

But now, we’re sharing a common experience: beyond family, society, country. Globally, we are being given an insight experiencein real time. Usually it is only in hindsight that we gain learnings, now, as we’re easing out of lockdown, we have an opportunity to reset, to question and to re-examine this script. 

This is important both from an individual and collective perspective. After all, the future is simply not written for us. We co-create reality, every moment, every day. All of us together.

Some politicians and business leaders think we can flip the switch, go back to “normal” — whatever that was. 

But that would be to ignore the insight experience many of us are having. Adam, a photographer, puts it well: “We need to reframe normal. It’s not about striving for the minimal level of comfort, it’s striving for excellence. It’s about being a good agent for change and making intelligent decisions.”

Reframing your WHY 

In the video clip (above) Michael Jr., takes an improv moment at his live comedy show to illustrate the difference between singing Amazing Gracewith talent, to singing the same song, “as if your uncle’s been shot, ya’ know, the ‘hood version…”  Michael Jr. crystallises how to reframe something. He asks the singer to come from a different place within himself and choose a different frame. By going deeper, and understanding his motivation — his WHY — transformation happens.

The same concept can be applied for us at this time.

Revising your inner script 

Right now, it’s too soon for clear answers. We’re just not there yet. 

But it’s a good time to reflect on how you might want to reset or revise your inner script. A 2012 study by Adam Grant and Jane Dutton discovered that even making small story edits has a big impact on our lives. 

The story you choose to tell yourself exerts a powerful influence over how well you captivate people — and how successful you are as a leader. Some of our beliefs limit our potential… and many of our collective beliefs limit what sort of world we believe is possible.  So, as we question WHAT we normally do, we can better understand WHY we do it and then HOW we can do things differently.  

5 ways to rewrite your inner script 

  1. Observe the story you tell yourself and you tell others. 
  2. Reflect: do parts of the story need editing, updating or simply chucking out all together? 
  3. Pay attention to the (often conditioned) beliefs you have about yourself. Be kind. Be curious. 
  4. Experiment reframing your beliefs.
  5. Lastly, think about what you thought your life/our future would look like pre-Covid19. How has this changed?   

I would love to know your thoughts.