the human heart

How Storytellers transformed the psyche of Athens

The people of Greece were always telling stories. And these stories were everywhere – on TV, in cafes, in magazines, in books, in schools, in offices, on the Internet. As usual, the country was going through heavy political and economic turmoil. Strange groups called the Fire Nuclei and Golden Dawn were at war, while people from all nations watched the center of Athens become a crucible of fire and smoke and the smashing of marble slabs by hammer and fist. The sophisticated members of Athenian society were increasingly moving their money, homes and families to London, Vancouver, New York, Dubai and further afield. The middle class was shrinking and the poor were out in the streets. Even as the violence found momentum amidst global market upheaval, a core group of committed storytellers in the universities and cafes found their legs. They began experimenting with the effect of story upon society. Some even became interested in trying their hand at changing events through the application of storytelling techniques.

The concept that set the imagination of these storytellers on fire was a simple term: context. The storytellers realized they could place stories in specific contexts and drastically change the participants within that context in short periods of time. Through simple A-B testing, the storytellers tried various methods of influencing perception of groups within Athenian society simply with well-wrought digital stories. Word spread amongst Masters level and even University level students as to the potency of story in changing the day-to-day headlines and events in the city of Athens. A network of storytelling “cabals” arose quickly in the Athenian underground. Each had its goal, its desired outcome. Every group had its specific root or history and its specific parea to exert an effect upon. Wild excitement grew amongst these storytellers upon seeing the power of their tales. All over Athens, in the cafes, universities, workplaces, the youth and young workers were increasingly active online and offline and telling one another fantastic tales. The wave of storytelling reached a fever pitch.

The storytellers were also interested in finding a way to make money and build lives from their stories alone. And this began with education. It became not only fashionable but downright normal and a convention that the youth trained in digital storytelling as a basis of communication. The types of media involved in digital storytelling – graphic, motion graphic, video, animation, text, photo, and audio – became incredibly popular courses of study. The universities and media agencies of Athens all began selling courses and extra-curricular courses in this area. From the heads of Communications Departments to the managers of television stations, the trend grew. Vendors of software related to the types of media used in digital storytelling offered cut-rate deals to students and the sale of computers and software skyrocketed. In addition, many start-ups were founded in Athens related to the various types of media used in digital storytelling. When people around the world talked about the power of digital storytelling to change a society, they always referred to the Athens example from 2013-2017.

Now there were two types of schools of thought related to digital storytelling in Athens. One focused on recording events and putting an emphasis upon these events. And the other was focused on live interaction with physical events. But it was a third school of thought that really captured the imagination of Athenian youth: fiction that creates new realities. In this third school of thought, the storytellers would think up a story that showed what they wanted to happen and then they would design a timeline of content AND context in order to bring this story to life in the physical realm. Although traditional news had focused on reporting real-time events and interpreting these events in light of specific political and philosophical ideologies, this new approach openly celebrated the power of story to shape events. The idea was criticized heavily and then accepted universally as repeated good results were shown.

This third approach to communications had a simple mechanism or function: a digital storyteller would write a story and create an editorial calendar for posting snippets of the story into specific contexts. The goal was to take control of that context through the various elements used AND the personalities conscripted to participate. In every case, a very clear outcome was written in an executive summary. The stories always had alternative paths built into the mechanism in anticipation of specific reactions by members of specific contexts. The approach had such an effective outcome for the students and staff working together that the form took off like wildfire in Athens. The model is what we formally call Dynamic/Active in formal digital storytelling, where user action foments additional dynamic content action.

As a result of this bias towards Dynamic/Active action in digital storytelling circles, storytellers became highly interested in psychology. Gaining an understanding of the psychologies of specific Athenian contexts, i.e.- pareas, became a major focus on the digital storytelling curriculum in Athens. A group of researchers mapped the current “ethos” of every known parea, small and large, in Athens, along with every sub-culture in the city. The map grew into a living infographic, which digital storytellers attempted to alter through their tales. It was this living infographic that caught the attention of the global media establishment and the world at large. And it is this living infographic that is really the starting point of our unique story.

How Analysts Deliver Meaningful Actions to Stakeholders

The following post was inspired by a recent day of meetings at a major FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) retailer in the United States. The post focuses on the use of market-related insights to deliver action-inducing stories to brand leadership and technical staff within the corporation.

THE “DEEP” ANALYST – A DEFINITION: A “deep” analyst chooses a psychological theme for analyzing a massive amount of data. For example, a “deep” analyst could apply an understanding of Jungian psychology to his/her analysis, focusing on classical Jungian therapeutic definitions as a guide for data segmentation. Such an analyst would seek to answer classical Jungian questions about an individual or group through his/her work with the data — for example, what “shadow” or unconscious elements of our corporation now animate our workforce? A corporate leader would want to know about these “hidden” animators of daily workforce behavior to better align manager actions and gain more precise results from staff.

(Summary: A researcher can study customer behavior and then tell corporate leadership what is secretly controlling staff and consumer actions.)

THE VALUE OF THE “DEEP” APPROACH: A significant value in the “deep” psychological approach to data is a wealth of short, yet powerful, anecdotes derived from research and “strung” along the path of a classical inner journey. When applied to a corporation, such stories offer tremendous value to stakeholders in making better decisions about a host of internal and external issues. As an example, what would happen if a major corporation studied Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, discovered where on that journey specific business units currently “walked”, and was better able to make decisions based upon this metaphor?

(Summary: A researcher can study customer behavior and then tell stories to corporate leadership as a means to inspiring specific helpful actions.)

THE ACTIONS OF A “DEEP” ANALYST WITHIN THE CORPORATION: The first action such a “deep” analyst takes within a corporate entity is to reveal the archetype at the brand core: that force in the unconscious of the company that is animating its stakeholders. The second action is to reveal who is consciously engaged with that archetype. The third is to influence, change and enhance the magnetism of the brand’s core so that customers and stakeholders are better served by a more inspired brand leadership.

(Summary: A researcher is curious about the main story of a brand or company. He/she is also interested in who else is aware of this story and what they do about this story on a regular basis. Finally, the researcher takes action to grow awareness of this story so that more people in a corporation will be helped/inspired and do a better job.)

RESULT #1 – INSPIRATION FOR TEAM LEADERS FROM INSIGHTS: Leadership will take insights gleaned by a “deep” analyst and engage more effectively with the core of the brand. A corporate leader must be steeped in the living and numinous entity that pulses at the center of the brand. Such devotion by the leader inspires stakeholders, merchant partners, employees and customers. You can tell when a corporate leader has become fully possessed by his/her brand…just take a look at Branson, Hsieh and Bezos. These are beings who enter regularly into the “fire” that burns at the core of their respective brands, emerging with powerful inspiration, drive and leadership for the entire corporate entity. The right set of stories derived through insights will ideally lift the “uninspired” leader to a new level of excitement about his/her business unit. In such cases, a single metaphor derived from insight can give birth to a greater level of passion in the leader and lift his/her staff up to a higher level of performance as a result.

RESULT #2 – WHAT A “DEEP” INSIGHT REVEALS: A deep insight reveals what animates a corporate entity, identifies the lenses within leadership upon company events and is a story of consequences (both “good” and “bad”). A deep insight inspires a bevy of possible actions and conceives strategies that will best serve current initiatives, stakeholders and customers. A deep insight will chart a path for brand leadership in winning on all levels. A deep insight contains the voices of a Critic AND a Creative, doing their duet. In this song, the Critic refines the Creative’s gift and the Creative ends up delivering happiness to the Critic: a win-win. Key: A deep insight provides a host of windows for times when doors seem to be closing.

THE FMCG EXAMPLE – HOW INSIGHTS BECOME PRACTICAL AND ACTION-INDUCING: Let us take, for instance, a leading FMCG entity with one foot in “flesh-retail” and one foot in the digital realm. This entity has an opportunity to weave flesh and digital with such elegance, such precision, that a customer hardly has to think when being served by one or the other. Deep insights will deliver tech so deeply embedded into the customer experience that the tech disappears…the customer makes his/her use of the tech a daily, even hourly, action.

Let us say, for instance, that this FMCG entity has created an app that delivers daily personalized discounts based on the customer’s past purchases, current financial “reality” and publicly expressed wishes. What a win for everyone! The customer wins because every time he/she steps into the retail or digital outlet, a discount on his/her faves is given (plus a whole lot more, in the ideal scenario). The resulting love affair influences the customer’s friends to participate and the merchants serving this FMCG are glowing with happiness as sales go up. The resulting community is a truly potent entity, able to extend seemingly un-ending generosity within itself and to its greater community. Everyone wants a piece of the action in such a scenario.

SUMMARY: An analyst focused on “deep” insights will evangelize the power of such intelligence throughout the corporate entity, throughout the brand organism. Such an analyst will educate every silo on how to use insights from intelligence for daily wins: within internal focus groups, (solving previously “un-solveable” issues), within customer focus groups, (solving those daily headaches that slow down the purchase cycle), within competitive situations, (revealing collaborative possibilities). A deep insight is the “A-ha!”, the “Eureka!”…and with the depth of data currently available, the market intelligence analyst working within a corporate entity has abundant and daily opportunities to make this exclamation and deliver powerful actions to every silo, every leader, every employee and, ultimately, to every customer.

Weaving Humanity Into a Golden Chord For the Seventh Generation

Nowadays, the depth of avail data provides a foundation for putting the “7th-generation” puzzle together accurately. #SeventhGeneration

SEVENTH GENERATION THINKING: Customers can now be matched with products/services that truly serve a need every single second of every single day. The data is that rich now. ALSO, there is enough positive intent nowadays to make this a nurturing process…for the planet, for humanity and for the “seventh generation”. The throw-away culture of two generations ago is being replaced with “seventh-generation” oriented action-takers. AND, the depth of available data actually provides a foundation for putting this “seventh-generation” puzzle together accurately. #SeventhGeneration #ForwardThinking #WiseData

WARP-SPEED MANIFESTATION: Since the Internet is not a hierarchy, all images, text, movies and songs have the opportunity to grow very large and swallow preceding “giants”. As a collective entity, perhaps the Internet is like a serpent swallowing its own tail. Being within this multi-dimensional eco-system is a transformative experience for individuals and the collective. Humanity is undergoing an extremely rapid phase of evolution presently. Extremely rapid and deep. Humans are realizing how malleable time can be…particularly since ideas become flesh at light-speed now. What would have once taken an entire generation to unfold occurs within minutes in today’s world.

Each person has the innate ability to take a dream and make the images in his/her mind into a tangible, concrete physical experience.

WEAVE YOUR REALITY: An innate talent taken from humans long ago is the ability to create tangible physical realities out of intangibles. Slices of humanity do this for a living: artists, writers, inventors, business founders. But each person has the innate ability to take a dream and make the images in his/her mind into a tangible, concrete physical experience. Try this today. Draw something simple on a piece of paper, such as you walking to the fridge and getting a glass of juice. Then stand up and do it. Now add complexity to this and watch the most “impossible” images turn into physical experience. #PracticalMagic #FictionIntoReality #Here2There

Each person has the innate ability to take a dream and make the images in his/her mind into a tangible, concrete physical experience. Each person can quite easily go from “here” to “there” nowadays.

From Here to There: How To Open a New World

“Why are you on the Internet so much?” they asked.
“Oh, I’m finding out about more things every day…,” she replied.

Humanity wants a path to a better world. Individuals are looking for a mechanism, a function, to hurdle perceived obstacles.

There is a whole new world of life-giving products, services and processes busting the seams to become mainstream. And there’s an old world of death-dealing things that now needs to pass away. The new world is as inevitable as the attraction between two people whose eyes dance, where the electric meets the magnetic, a gravity that cannot be ignored.

Fortunately, the network has officially eclipsed the hierarchy. Humanity now sits in an ever expanding set of concentric circles. Connecting laterally is far more effective than “climbing the corporate ladder” in today’s paradigm.

If you want to experience your new world take the following steps:

1. 1 HOUR FREE WRITE: Spend an hour free-writing, where you allow the pen to move across the page without editing yourself. (Suggestion: Write with a pen on a pad of paper. See more on why at Julia Cameron’s page about “Morning Pages” here – http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/ )
2. THREE KEYWORDS: Next write down a few keywords that capture your feeling after doing this writing.
3. SEARCHING THE KEYWORDS: Search these keywords in every social property and social “device” at The World Wide Mind.
4. ARCHIVING THE IMAGES: Save the images, links and text you find that “fit” or “attract” you.
5. MEETING UP: All of these images, links and texts were created by someone. One of those “someones” is going to jump out to you. Find that person’s social handles and send a message. Meet up with that person in the flesh. Spend some time “in the world” of your images. The experience of going from image to flesh is truly amazing.
6. CREATE A NEW WORLD: Once you’ve tasted this alternative universe that emerged from steps 1-5, you have to calculate the consequences for yourself of fully entering that world. Once you do your calculations, develop your ideas and write down your plans, simply go into that world. You just created it.

This process can be used over and over again. And this process can be used by individuals and enterprises, by students and institutions, by citizens and governments.