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Tell Better Stories

Not the same stories with more tools, or the same stories on different marketing channels. Better. Stories.

Tell Better Stories

Start with your LinkedIn summary section. Imagine you were asked the perfect question that set you up to tell a powerful story. Try it and answer it. For example, “tell me a story that shows me how much you love what you do.”

If you’re a brand, start with gathering the many stories about you. Discuss what you like about them. Explore them by acting (seriously, act it out) or drawing the story out. Only then see how they come to life with media.

You’ve created a strategy for your brand messaging, but have you created a strategy house for your brand storytelling? Create compelling situations and narratives in which they come to life.

Our brains are preprogrammed to respond to stories. It’s been this way since before the creation of the pen.

You don’t have to create a new story to be effective, simply repurpose one of the existing 7 plot lines: 1. Overcoming the monster 2. Rags to riches 3. The quest 4. Voyage and return 5. Comedy 6. Tragedy 7. Rebirth

Via GoodReads.com

(Source: Christopher Booker, Seven Basic Plots)

One day our team was working on a content calendar for one of our clients. We decided to take one important benefit about the brand, ‘it helps people feel better,’ and we turned that benefit into stories by casting it into the different aforementioned plots: escaping the monster became a journey to run from illness, and rags to riches turned into a story of good luck and good fortune finding the product. This simple exercise transformed brainstorming and list making into imagining and meaning making. The results were far richer.

Before You Go,

The desire to tell better stories is where it all begins. Like the topic, read on Why Your Brain Loves Good Story Telling?

WANT TO TELL EVEN BETTER STORIES?

Want to learn more about effective storytelling? Check out our LinkedIn Live  “Tell Stories Better” : A Live Event Recorded.

Unlock Your Creativity Gridlock

Maybe she’s born with it… or maybe she’s worked to cultivate it in her life and career. 

The word is creativity—not an inherent trait, but a skill that anyone can build. It’s the lifespring of innovation, and the difference between lackluster and brilliant work. It’s so significant that LinkedIn named it the most important skill in the world

Foster creativity in your work and life

Creativity is as important to business as it is to traditional art. It’s vital to generating novel ideas that push boundaries and drive innovation, and it makes for dynamic and predictive problem-solving. The keys to creativity are diversity and curiosity

Via Unsplash

Diversifying who or what you interact with—from food to culture to people—stimulates creativity by opening you up to new ideas and experiences. In fact, research shows that deeply felt multicultural experiences lead to creativity by broadening your scope of thinking. 

The best way to diversify your mental ecosystem is through curiosity. Remaining curious about the world and implementing continuous learning into your life allows you to lean in to new ideas and embrace uncertainty with a positive attitude. 

Tips to get started

We know that creativity can be hard to come by, especially in the midst of uncertainty. We’ve come up with helpful tips for finding inspiration in the everyday, so you can harness creativity from even the simplest of things.

Listen to something new. RCRDList will send you an email with a new album you should listen to everyday, handpicked by humans, not algorithms. 

Get a different perspective. With WindowSwap, you can enjoy the view from someone else’s window from anywhere around the world. Traveling the world from home just got easier.

Via WindowSwap

Watch a good movie. agoodmovietowatch gives you recommendations for movies that are highly-rated and often little-known. Their wide range of filters, including by streaming platform, makes it that much easier to find what you’re looking for (bye-bye browsing fatigue).

Refresh your space. Breathe life into your home by adding live plants; declutter and get rid of what doesn’t work; rearrange a familiar area to give yourself a fresh perspective.

Explore a different topic. Sign up for a newsletter of a topic outside your immediate interests. Try Robinhood Snacks for finance, Pitchfork for music, The Pop Culture Happy Hour for culture, Business of Fashion for fashion, or NextDraft for news with a twist.

Via Robinhood Snacks

Get creative and go!

Don’t wait on the lightning bolt to strike—try these tips to cultivate diversity and curiosity into your daily life and watch your creative juices flow. 

 

Virtual Curiouser & Curiouser: Insights from our July 2020 Innovation Showcase

As quarantine labors into the summer, refine+focus is here for you with fresh ideas to reignite your wonder. We recently held our signature event, Curiouser & Curiouser, which is dedicated to growing innovative ideas and building meaningful new relationships. Read all about the exciting selection of pieces that our team shared below.

Must Attend

Want to meet other innovative thinkers? Connect by attending an event. Our events calendar is packed with carefully curated events and resources to tickle your curiosity.

Check out our curated events and resources calendar.

The Curiouser & Curiouser Event

The Curiouser community came together on July 13 to each share something that intrigues or excites us. As always, we were struck by the range of ideas that people brought as we discussed everything from the fate of globalism to Panera marketing strategy to innovative nail polish packaging.

Here are the highlights:

Barbara Vanaki shared a presentation on machine learning models and how human bias becomes encoded into big data.

David Tames discussed a film that he has been creating which investigates why we segregate ourselves into opposite opinions and how to deal with intractable fanatics.

Purnima Thakre identified innovation in an unexpected place: nail polish packing! She described how her new Olive & June nail polish kit expertly re-engineered the customer experience of painting one’s nails.

Via OliveandJune.com

Joe Macek shared his enthusiasm for his new investment in SpaceX and their innovative work on Starlink.

Jeff Butler pondered how people make big decisions in their lives, inspired by changes in his plans to balance pursuing an MBA and competing in the 2021 Paralympics.

Catherine Cheng shared an excerpt of world-renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim on how to listen to music.

Harrison Yu raised the question of if globalism, as we’ve seen it since WWII, is dead or merely being reimagined.

Katie Martensen offered an innovative marketing strategy from Panera Bread in which Panera used twitter polls and targeted ads to offer free coffee for the summer to those who participated.

Via Twitter.com

Katherine Cruz discussed her passion project addressing environmentalism, the waste of shoes, and her love of running by creating a resource that helps runners in her community recycle their used sneakers.

Eduardo Pujol highlighted two innovative technologies, Exploding Topics which uses an algorithm to identify trends before they take off, and Crystal, a LinkedIn personality test plugin that helps you learn more about how to engage with your connections.

Via ExplodingTopics.com

Zach Braiker closed the evening with contemplation on how sharing literature builds friendships and a few lines of poetry from The Gift by Hafez-e-Shirazi: ‘Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth you owe me. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky’.

An Invitation

Want to join our next innovation showcase? Have a new idea that you’d like to share? Reach out to us at hello@refineandfocus.com and we will let you know if a spot opens up.

It’s 2020, Learn from Your Customer

Your customer has all the answers. The art, however, lies in being able to gather those insights efficiently and act on them effectively. 

Why getting it right matters

Sustain growth. If you care about your customer and meet their needs, you won’t need to worry about the competition. 

Save resources. According to research by Vonage, an estimated $62 billion is lost by U.S. businesses each year following bad customer experiences. By understanding your customer and their customer journey, you can optimize your business to provide the best customer experience.

Via Paco.com

 

Build your ability to pivot. If you know your customer inside and out, you will know how to meet their deepest needs even when situations change. For example, Netflix recognized that pre-COVID consumers liked to stream shows and have communal viewings. During COVID, Netflix developed Netflix Party as a way for people to be able to continue to do this despite social distancing.

What to learn from your customer

Learn everything you possibly can (then ask WHY). Learn about their behavior, psychology, likes-dislikes, needs-wants, what they love-hate, what they are trying to achieve and more. Above all, learn the why behind all of those behaviors and feelings.

Via Hyken.com

How to learn from your customer

A mindset change requires breaking down past barriers and starting new habits.

Listen with empathy and objectivity. It’s imperative that companies listen with empathy, not judgement. Learning from customers is best when companies are curious and open to learn, not seeking to justify.

Break corporate barriers and stop working in silos. Empower everyone in your organization to be obsessed with understanding your customer. Not just the frontline of sales and marketing. 

Form new habits to support a culture of curiosity. Insert the customers’ voice in decisions and continue to gather customer insight from objective surveys, interviews, and co-creation. Use Strategyzer’s customer insight cards to capture what you discover.

Want to learn more about the art of learning from your customers? Here is our Live session recorded. 

How to Walk to Your ‘Why’ (if you can’t run it)

Remember the eye-opening 2007 statistic that we spend one-third of our lives working? In the era of remote work where the line between our professional and personal lives have become increasingly blurred, we can no longer pretend that our purposes are entirely separate too. 

Investigating and reflecting on your why is critical to feeling fulfilled in your life and it can even make you a better employee. Yet many of us don’t know where to start. 

Here’s our actionable roadmap to help you identify your why, then live it every day.

Defining Your Why

The first step towards living your why is knowing what it is. 

Start with Simon Sinek’s TED Talk that’s garnered over 50 million views. He turns to neuroscience to help people understand their purpose and drive.

Draw 5 pivotal moments from your life that exemplify your why. This exercise not only helps you reflect, but research also shows that the act of drawing inspires new insights.

Write up your ideal job description. This reflective practice can help you articulate what’s missing from your life.

Ask yourself three questions. Does your work excite you? Does it challenge you? Does it add value? When you can shout an enthusiastic yes to all three, you have likely found your why.

Via AgileCoffee.com

Getting Your Why Into Your Day

For many of us, living our why in their purest form may not be feasible. Yet there are many ways to integrate your purpose into your existing routines.

Deliberately build your day – Identify the things that bring you energy and integrate them into your other tasks. For example, if you really enjoy talking with others, schedule virtual work sessions with friends to help you feel invigorated all day.

Find ways to contribute your strengths – Do things that are meaningful and allow you to bring your best contribution. If you have a passion for graphic design, volunteer that skill for a cause that you care about. Check out CatchAFire.org, where individuals can volunteer their professional services for the social sector.

Keep learning – Practicing continuous learning can reignite your why if you feel stagnant. Check out our curated, actionable tips here.

Strive for a work/life equilibrium – That’s obviously much easier to write than it is to live. But organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s podcast WorkLife is packed with tips and insights to help make it a little easier.

Via CatchAFire.org

 

Living your why can be a daunting task, and like anything else, you must walk before you can run. Start living your why today by using these concrete exercises to inspire reflection and practice your why a little every day.

Want to help your employees live their why? Start by instilling a culture of continuous learning that fosters individual exploration. Check out our own Zach Braiker and Purnima Thakre’s LinkedIn Live on growing a culture of continuous learning at work.

10X Your Curious Culture

Not all organizations approach continuous learning from the same place. Some industries organically attract curious people and companies must sustain that curiosity. Other times, organizations need fresh ways to inspire the curiosity of their employees to foster a continuous learning community.

Regardless of the starting point, investing in a culture of continuous learning has clear benefits. One study found that curiosity increases job satisfaction, engagement, and innovative behaviors. Further, research published in the Harvard Business Review found that cultivating curiosity develops employees’ adaptability and creates conditions that foster trusting, collaborative professional relationships. 

Here are seven proven tips and techniques for growing a culture of learning to help organizations harness its value:

Start a co-learning Slack channel.

At refine+focus we encourage our team to share any cool resources, articles, or webinars that peak their interest. It’s become a hub of knowledge, discussion, and exploration.

 

Via refine+focus’ co-learning slack channel

 

When onboarding, look for the profile of an intellectually curious candidate.

A report from Merck found that employees who scored high on the curiosity index often viewed themselves as detail-oriented, thoughtful and energetic decision makers who brought positivity to their organization. 

 

Via Merck.com

 

Create a space that incubates curiosity.

Thriveglobal.com recommends creating time for research and reflection, always asking ‘why’, and converting the discomfort of not-knowing into curiosity and excitement.

 

Via TeachThought.com

 

Bake curiosity into meeting agendas.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies can take project agenda items and reformulate them as questions. These new agendas drive engagement and participation by focusing on questions like “how should we prioritize these projects?”. 

 

Via Flickr.com

 

Create a resource catalogue and offer programs that support it.

Novartis offers an extensive training catalogue with a range of upskilling opportunities. The catalogue features resources in multiple languages and includes in-person training programs, online courses, books, audiobooks, podcasts, and Ted Talks. According to Forbes, Novartis also has a program that allows employees to learn and grow for 100 hours per year through employer-paid education. 

 

Via Novartis

 

Have a question of the week and start using #GreatQuestion.

SurveyMonkey holds weekly town hall meetings on the question of the week, selected by employees through a survey. SurveyMonkey also fosters a culture of supporting questions using #GreatQuestion in their Slack channels.

 

Via Teamgantt.com

 

Incentivize and gamify curious behavior.

Workday offers an annual innovation award to foster new, creative solutions while other companies like AT&T hold hackathons and E3 has a peer to peer recognition program.

 

Via AT&T.com

 

There are numerous ways to approach continuous learning. From instituting a new hashtag to building curious spaces, prioritizing and protecting time for curiosity and exploration can help organizations win the fruits of continuous learning. Pick a few of the tips to try and take a conscious, iterative approach to testing them out. We’re curious to hear how it goes.

P.S. Want to learn more about continuous learning? Check out our CEO’s Zach Braiker and COO Purnima Thakre’s LinkedIn Live event on the principles and practices of a continuous learner. 

The Continuous Learner Journey

Continuous learning is a way of life. And like exercise, those who are committed to it see numerous benefits in their health, wellness, and careers. Yet not everyone encounters continuous learning the same way, which is why we must approach the topic differently for each type of person.

The Skeptic

If you need a reason to believe the benefits of continuous learning, start with the fact that those who learn continuously succeed. Research has found that “continuous training gives 50% net higher sales per employee”. It’s also known to boost engagement and productivity. To become a continuous learner, start with curiosity.

 

Via OriginLearning.com
          • Before you can form a habit, start with the desire for change and the hunger to learn something new.
          • There’s a mindfulness exercise which transforms the act of eating a simple raising into an act of discovery. The idea is to pay exquisite attention to an ordinary object to illuminate it.
          • Another technique is to find a Ted Talk on a topic on which you are curious. Explore why the topic interests you and what the interest says about you.

The “I wish I had time” learner

Don’t we all wish we had more time to learn. The secret to continuous learning is integrate it among your priorities. Start smaller.

          • Enhance your current routine with great content.
          • Plan ahead for the learning. Create a folder where you add the resources that you want to check out and dig in when the time arises (or better yet, slot it in).
          • Crowdsource. Use social media to ask your busy friends what they’re learning and how.
          • Add reflection into your routine. Continuous learning does not always require outside stimulus. Even writing a 5 minute summary of your day before you sleep acknowledges what you’re learning.

 

Via GreatMindsUnited.com

The “give me more” learner

These curious explorers already have a portfolio of learning. They can recommend the best podcasts, courses, shows and experiences. Many things are helpful for them.

          • It’s critical to find new voices and get outside of the echo-chamber of resources that reinforce the same types of learning. We recommend following people with different points of view on social media. Fresh perspectives can also be found by discovering newsletters and videos.
          • Actively exploring new events is key. We recommend creating a calendar of events, finding one day a month to create a calendar. Start with Eventbrite or check out our carefully curated events calendar.

 

Click the image to discover 40+ virtual events

For all continuous learners

Check out these golden resources to spark your curiosity.

          • NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast marries science and storytelling to explore human behavior and understand our unconscious patterns and biases.
          • You never know what you’re going to get from iHeart Radio’s podcast Stuff You Should Know. Topics range from the origins of flamethrowing to true crime stories to Rosa Parks to if dogs can tell time.
          • Explained, a VOX produced Netflix docu series, explores everything from cryptography to why diets fail to the origins of athleisure to the world of k-pop.
          • Zenhabits is a blog dedicated to simplicity and mindfulness among chaos. This thoughtful and actionable resource is packed with provoking thought-pieces and practical actions.
          • LinkedIn Learning offers a selection of courses taught by professionals in the field.

 

Via Medium.com

 

Curiosity is the heart of continuous learning. While there are many benefits around continuous learning, it’s not just benefit-driven. You can cross fertilize outside your silo and explore new ways of practicing continuous learning.

Must Connect

To learn more about continuous learning principles, practices, and mindsets check out the LinkedIn Live event we held in which our CEO Zach Braiker shared his insights and experiences.

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