Story Sprint

Discover & Test a Better Way To Frame Your Work in Just 2 Days

Inspired by the Google Ventures Design Sprint, the Story Sprint takes the same design-oriented, iterative approach used by top tech firms in Silicon Valley and applies it to strategic storytelling. The goal of a Sprint is uncovering an emotionally authentic story that resonates internally and motivates target external audiences — one that “feels good”, “makes sense” and delivers tangible business results.

To get there, the Sprint brings together a diverse group of organizational participants, often including representatives from management, sales, marketing, operations and human resources.  Together, you will engage in facilitated conversation and creative, outside-the-box exercises, on your way to developing a shared storytelling language. Rather than developing a one-line Mission Statement, you will work with storytelling as a process — one that links your collective experience, vision and ambition with your target audiences through the past, present and future. This uniquely intimate approach dependably delivers an authentic, meaningful and inclusive shared story.

In the last phase, you’ll test a prototype of your new story — such as a brochure, website or marketing campaign — with select members of your target audience. Through one-on-one interviews, you’ll quickly understand, empathize with and integrate your audience’s perspective, and use it to adjust your direction accordingly. At the end of the Sprint, you’ll leave with clear insights on how to improve your storytelling and a clear shared goal for exactly what you need to do next.

Sprints build trust

“We came in with apples. We left with watermelons.”
— Denise Stys-Norman, Executive Director, Tourism Ucluelet

I’ve run Story Sprints with groups like the Brookes International School, Tourism Ucluelet and Advocis, The Financial Advisors’ Association of Canada — to help them clearly articulate why their offerings are valuable and unique.

By coming together in a collaborative, psychologically safe and expertly facilitated environments, groups like these have been able to speak honestly and passionately about their work. They’ve left feeling engaged, empowered and motivated, received meaningful feedback and reached a clear consensus for what to do next.

Tourism Ucluelet used a Story Sprint to develop positioning for town destination marketing.

Sprints are versatile

Sprints can be used by any group, business or organization to create clarity around an important strategic question. By collaborating on a tangible outcome, groups that use a Story Sprint achieve an important step forward towards their collective vision.

Brookes International School used a Story Sprint to power an important rebrand.

Advocis used a Story Sprint to build a membership growth campaign.

FUN Society used a Story Sprint to clearly express its organizational mission.

How Sprints Work

Sprints uncover tactical answers to abstract strategic questions.

Before the Sprint

Before the Sprint begins, you’ll need the right challenge and the right team. You’ll also need to have time and space to conduct your sprint.

In the lead-up to the Sprint, each participant will be engaged in a one-on-one conversation to discuss the goals of the Sprint, answer key questions and to set the framework for the creative work to come. This approach ensures that the group can hit the ground running as soon as they hear the starter’s gun.

Day One

On Day One, you’ll begin with a series of facilitated exercises that dive deep into your own personal story. Why do you do what you do? What is your vision for how your work within your organization will change you and the world? A structured conversation will help you share those ideas with the group and distill commonalities. In the afternoon, you’ll consider your vision from the opposite perspective, developing an inspiring, inclusive narrative — your “organizational sermon“. This high-level vision will form the context for the story you aim to tell.

Day Two

On Day Two, you’re ready to focus on solutions. Your group will work together to design a prototype — a realistic facade of a visual communications piece (like a website or brochure) that illustrates one chosen storytelling approach. By “faking it” and using a simple design program, your group will design the prototype yourselves, allowing you to finish the design in just one day.

Directly Afterwards

Most likely, your Sprint began with an excellent team — and a story that needed considerable polish. In just two days, you’ve worked together, clarified your language and even made a prototype for a new communications piece that’s ready to be handed off to a designer. That’s a huge accomplishment. But you’ll take one step further as you take your prototype and show it to your target market in a series of structured, one-on-one interviews. This test is the cherry on top of your Sprint cake: by giving you immediate feedback on your work, you can quickly adjust your story and develop a plan to address any holes. Once you integrate the feedback, you’ll know exactly what you need to do next.

Get Started Today!

In 2016, the BBC said what all of us already know — our digital era is more aptly called “The Age of Loneliness.” Organizations that tell stories can assist their audiences in finding purpose and meaning. In the future, well-told stories will become the primary method of building communion with customers, supporters, employees and fans.

Every organization is already actively telling their story, whether they know it or not. By spending effort developing a coherent, emotionally meaningful and authentic story, organizations are better positioned to engage their audience, stand out from their competition and take confident strides towards long term success.

Make engagement and cohesion part of your story.

Questions?

How many participants are optimal?

The ideal group size ranges between 8 – 25 people — enough that you can break out into smaller groups and work together to generate competing ideas.

Why can't we do it in less than two days?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all great ideas showed up in a flash? By giving you and your team the space and time to really drop into your problem, you vastly increase the likelihood of meaningful insight. Besides, if you can come up with an organization-changing story by Wednesday, wouldn’t you say that’s time well spent?

How does the process work?

The key to the process is the idea of psychological safety — an idea that is so important that Google called it the most important dynamic for effective teamwork. For most of us, it’s really scary to express an idea that sounds silly, especially when our boss is in the room. By combining structured conversation with unconventional exercises, you build a sense of trust — a sense that you as a group are setting off into the unknown, together. Ultimately, this sense of trust will advance your story more than the ideas you develop.

Leaders collaborating at the 2015 Future of Storytelling Summit

What happens with the prototype?

Once the prototype is tested with your target audience, you’ll receive immediate and relevant feedback that can be integrated into your work. You’ll pass this feedback — along with the prototype — along to your design team, who can take what you’ve developed and make it excellent. (If you don’t have a design team, my team will be excited to design it for you.)

By going through this process, you’ve reduced dozens of hours of back and forth with a design team — a considerable savings of time and money.

What happens next?

Creating a successful prototype isn’t the end — it’s the next step on your ongoing storytelling journey. Usually, the next step is developing a expertly designed version of the story you’ve just created. (Me & my creative team are ready to step in and design something wonderful.) Or you may have realized that updating your story requires particular changes to percolate through your organization. In either case, we’re there! My goal is to help you transform your story — and walk with you every step of the way. Check out my services for more info!

About the Facilitator

I began running Story Sprints in 2015, after I saw an opportunity to quickly and meaningfully help my clients shift their own story — and bring clarity to their work. By doing so, I brought to organizations and groups the same work I’ve been doing with individuals since 2010 — digging deep into their non-verbal language to communicate more meaningfully, using their emotions.

In addition to my consulting work with dozens of clients all over the world, I am a sought after speaker for events like Social Media Camp, Thinklandia and the Future of Storytelling Summit.

Story Sprint - Jordan Bower