When Widows Dance: Story Strategies for Innovation (prologue)

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I met Dirk Beveridge in a bar in Rhode Island.  No surprise, as most of my best professional relationships have started in bars.  (Note that I use the word “relationship” intentionally – doing great things starts with the relationship first – details second.  And bars tend to bring out our authentic selves, which helps us build authentic relationships.)

Dirk was on a quest – to find storytellers for his inaugural story summit for the wholesale-distribution industry in Chicago.  He’s a big man – in heart, stature, vision and passion.  Dirk seeks to inspire his colleagues to open themselves up to change – for the better.  To give themselves permission to dream. To help them enable their people to embrace and engage with opportunities for the future.  To lift and shift an entire industry into a new era of creative prosperity.  Just a small quest …

So at the bar, we got to talking.  Amidst the food, booze and noise, Moura and I tried to explain the work we’re doing at the Sauder d.studio (no small feat, since we struggle to do this coherently in the light of day!)  Dirk was intrigued and we agreed to a follow-up conversation in the next week.  When we re-connected, we explored options for having one of us join him as a storyteller at UnleashWD – his event in Chicago.  It turned out that Moura wasn’t available – and I didn’t feel that we had a big enough story to tell from our d.studio work yet.  But Dirk was dogged.  He quizzed me about my background and became intrigued by the work I’ve been doing with story, based on my documentary days, graduate studies, consulting and design practice.  We agreed that I’d come to Chicago and share my story about my story work – how leaders can move beyond simply story-telling to story-sharing.  How they might start to invite, harvest, explore and leverage the stories of employees and stakeholders as foundational research that becomes a springboard for innovation.

So off I went to Chicago in November (that’s a story for another post).  For now, I’ll just say that UnleashWD was a phenomenal event for me, as a catalyst to clarify, frame and share my experiences and expertise. And (I believe) it was pivotal for those in the wholesale-distribution industry who attended, as inspiration to begin to consider new possibilities for decaying business models.

A video of my story will be available in the new year. In the meantime, the above photo is a graphic recordings of my session (the left hand side).  You can also find out more about the event here:  http://unleashwd.com

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