In our story model, we work with four shapes stories tend to take as they form in organizations and networks:
- Linear — stories with beginnings/middles/ends. Novels and films have this shape.
- Cyclical — stories that get repeated over time. Folkways and company policies fit this shape.
- Assemblage — stories that connect rhizomatically, like a field of clover. Memes and collaborative workflows are examples.
- Spiral — these are stories that change every time they cycle.
What we are in now, on an unprecedented scale, is a spiral.
Let’s focus on two properties of spirals that are relevant to where we are today:
Spirals contain ‘updraft’ and ‘downdraft’ energy. That’s what makes them spirals, in the same way that the adjacency of warm and cool air creates the ‘wind shear’ that forms tornadoes. What we are experiencing now with the COVID19 pandemic is a downdraft. Businesses closing. Schools sending students home for the semester. Panic buying in supermarkets. It sucks to a degree none of us have experienced before.
With this massive spiral dictating our behaviors, it is more important than it has ever been that we locate the updrafts within the spiral. This is an opportunity. There is no single action we can take to turn things around. Rather, we can do it with a rapid series of small incremental actions. We can do it with structure and disciplined practices for tapping into the lift that we know is there. Glider pilots looking for the uplift in thermals have a phrase for this disciplined testing. They call it “sticking your nose in it.”
Spirals spin out into new spiral formations. The force of a spiral story spins out many other related stories, each with their own spiral energy, the way a Super Bowl championship creates commercial opportunities, or a downturn in one’s health can bring about downturns in other areas of life. These new spirals create another opportunity for us to tap into the updrafts. Each new spiral presents its own set of possibilities, good and bad. It is our response -- our discipline, structure, perseverance and optimism -- that give us our best odds on turning the new spirals into uplifting, positive experiences.
A 21 Day Story sprint provides you with a way of framing change as an opportunity for positive transformation. For finding the updrafts in new ways of convening and collaborating. For using the animated energy that comes with an emergency as a way of opening doors to a better world.