Step 2 To A Powerful Story (or all the Stuff That Happened from Things Being One Way to Things Being Another Way)

Part two of the Hero’s Journey, as applied to organizational storytelling, is the Journey. Yesterday I wrote about how the story starts – the Call. Today, we tackle the largest part of any story  – what actually happens or the expedition.

In some of the most famous stories of all time, like Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the journeys are long and arduous. Luke Skywalker meets up with Obi-Wan Kenobi. He goes to the alien bar. He meets Hans Solo. He attempts to rescue Prince Leia. He learns to fly. The Hobbits go to an inn where they are almost killed. They run into the Nazgul. They go to Rivendale. They meet the elves, and a hundred  other adventures. But, in business storytelling, the journeys — while they contain details and “happenings,” needn’t be so drawn out.

For instance, James Dyson, whose story I began to tell yesterday spent 5 years and built 5,127 prototypes to deliver to the world the first bag-less vacuum cleaner. Those numbers alone can be enough to showcase a pretty long journey.

But, you still must follow some basic rules, such as how and where you discover the road really is harder than it seemed at first. You meet friends along the way. But you also run into obstacles, the largest of which is the villain (or dragon or adversary). You  must introduce the villain. Otherwise, you might as well just recite a timeline. In a business setting you might say, we all knew we were fighting inertia, the economy, the competition, a specific  naysayer…”

James Dyson discovered that major vacuum manufacturers were not interested in his new technology. Want to know why? They weren’t really the enemy. (It’s really interesting if you can identify a villain that is not so obvious.) The enemy for James Dyson was the vacuum cleaner bag. Did you know the vacuum cleaner bag industry was worth $500 million dollars every year? (Who knew?) The manufacturers were not interested in giving up such a lucrative accessory, so they turned him away. But, then he eventually licensed his design to Japan and the royalties from that deal allowed him to manufacture a machine under his own name.

I am sure there are many, many things that happened in Dyson’s Journey that we do not know about. But, you don’t have to weigh it down with endless detail. In business storytelling, you give just enough of those details to give it some color and scenery. Include twists and turns. Show how you thought it was going to go one way and then it didn’t. That will make it more interesting.

Tomorrow, we discuss part three: The Achievement. (And, you thought just having a bag-less vacumn cleaner was enough?)

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