Monday, February 18, 2008

Tell me a story

There’s something wrong with situations, real or simulated, where dreaming is frowned upon. Alter egos and Eyeores pragmatically vault you back to reality. Get real. Seriously. C’mon. Yeah, but. Dreamer. Life kicks you around in normalized ways.

It takes a while for kids to be normalized. We (parents) play along with their fantasies, chortling and rolling our eyes in a some day he/she will learn fashion. Kids absorb – and love to tell – stories. As we shared in Yes, and … (creative lessons from children):

Creative people are like kids: They question apparent facts by asking why, how and what. Plato believed -– though I do not think it’s as binary as he posited -- experience takes away more than it adds … young people are nearer ideas than old people.
I recently discovered an interesting and relevant @Google talk from economist Robert Frank where he amplified the narrative learning theory:
At its core, the narrative perspective holds that human beings have a universal predisposition to 'story' their experience, that is, to impose a narrative interpretation on information and experience.
Great experiences – dreams, fantasies, movies, fiction, entrepreneurial endeavors – are rooted in tales, stuff we remember. Stories are a vehicle to articulate and illustrate our aspirations, our newness, our creativity. Frank continues:
[children] ... turn things into stories, and when they try to make sense of their life they use the storied version of their experience as the basis for further reflection. If they don't catch something in a narrative structure, it doesn't get remembered very well, and it doesn't seem to be accessible for further kinds of mulling over.
Creators of all flavors – entrepreneurs, artists, authors, backyard-wandering children – live in a fantastical world, a place where people on the outside have trouble relating. Their perceived success hinges on their ability to craft and relay stories, to engage theretofore you-can’t-be-serious ferrets (or fat-headed VCs).

Think of two conversations. The first, and most common, is where you mundanely recount (and lament) facts with fellow-parent Fred during your kid’s baseball game. It’s a bobble-head drag about life's travails whereby you’re socialized to stutter forth. The second encounter is, say, with a new person, Melinda. Curiosity rules, attention heightens, a story is told, new circumstances pondered. It's a yes, and .... conversation. We forget Fred; we remember Melinda (and her story).

It’s trite to opine great things begin with a dream. Of course they do. The challenge is twofold: First, to dream, to think of things in new ways, to avert normalized thought; and, second, to craft and share a story, no matter how crazy or zany or wacky.

Creativity (collecting and connecting dots) breeds invention (new, combinatorial discoveries) that breeds innovation (commercial acceptance of an invention) based on the novelty and value of said innovation and – critically – your ability to relate to an audience. Well-told, relational stories get you there.

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