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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. 

 

Everyone Has a Plan Until…

“Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth” — Mike Tyson

COVID-19 was the punch in the mouth to many of our best intended strategic growth plans. This created new demand for approaches to planning that incorporate agility and resourcefulness. 

Add innovation to your strategic planning

The traditional process of strategic planning involves growing existing revenue streams and scaling what already works in your business. But the uncertainty of COVID-19 demands innovation planning, which, according to Innovation Zen, “creates new business models, is centered on the market and aims to find new ways of value creation”. 

Strategic planning and innovation planning are different because strategic planning works within your existing business model, while innovation planning unlocks new potential and is significantly more agile.

Via Innovation Zen.com

Tips to get started

We know that any type of planning amidst uncertainty can be daunting, but innovation planning really thrives in this context. We have some easy ways to help you get started and make the process enjoyable and productive. 

Adopt an innovation mindset. Unlocking a creative innovation mindset requires embracing the potential to be wrong, becoming comfortable with ambiguity, and remaining consistent in your efforts. This mindset is imperative to innovation planning because it ensures that you will respond dynamically to the inevitable stumbling blocks and developments that will complicate your planning.

 

Via GeorgeCourous.com

 

Try the business model canvas. The business model canvas is a great innovation tool because of its adaptability and simplicity. Treating it like a vision board for your planning helps you think flexibly about your business. It’s also an adaptable tool because that you can fit to your own needs. If the BMC is too daunting, you can start with Kanban.

 

via This is Service Design Doing.com

 

Use the Lists and Choices method.This very simple approach to planning involves making lists by thinking exhaustively, then editing those lists by making choices. Although it may seem intuitive, it can be incredibly powerful as it encourages us to segment our mindset – first to really think creatively without judgement when we brainstorm, then to be deliberate when we evaluate.

By Purnima Thakre

 

Establish decision making boundaries. To make your planning sessions productive, determine ahead of time how final decisions will be made. Will it be democratic through dot voting? Or will there be one final decision maker?

Via Aalpha.com

 

Try it yourself!

There are numerous ways to approach innovation planning, ranging from changing your mindset to experimenting with new tools. Pick a few of the tips to try and test them out. We’re curious to hear how it goes.

P.S.

Want to learn more about innovative strategic planning? Check out our CEO Zach Braiker and COO Purnima Thakre’s LinkedIn Live event for more best practices and simple tips.

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. 

Curiouser & Curiouser: Insights from Our November 2019 Innovation Showcase

We hosted the last Curiouser of 2019, coming together as a cozy group of colleagues and friends. As the weather gets colder, our excitement for learning and innovation has only warmed. We sowed our curiosity, waiting for it to sprout in the new year. 

The Event

The event brings together people from all walks of life. We talk about our ideas, developing them into powerful insights. Even though all Curiouser events are unique, this event was special for multiple reasons. A smaller group of 8 enabled us to dive deeper — we increased speaking time from 3 minutes to 5 minutes per each attendee. This enabled us to explore ideas at a richer level. 

What We Discovered 

Eduardo Pujol shared an emotionally charged video entitled MENstruation. The short clip, produced by the Thinx company, imagined that all humans had periods–thus destigmatizing them.

Amanda Lewis shared a graciously written note on how communal spaces revitalize communities and integrates people. She specifically discussed the need for public pools in the town of Winchester. As she explained, the absence of public pools stems from discrimination and desegregation.

Hadi Medeiros shared his experience with celebratory gunfire in Lebanon. He warned people to be aware of their surroundings and to quickly seek shelter case if they hear gunshot noises. Hadi also showed off the Hopper app. The A.I. powered platform remembers past trends for domestic and international travel prices, allowing one to book flights accordingly.

Curtis Cook shared the advice he received from his coach: “never be satisfied”. But he isn’t satisfied with the quote either. We discussed balancing the never-ending pursuit for greater accomplishment and self-contentment (which, we clarified, is not complacency) and whether humans can ever achieve a sense of satisfaction.

Johnathan Nichols Based on his travel observations, Johnathan highlighted the need for confessional-like booths at airports and other travel terminals. These would help us deal with the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Ameenah Rashid Shared a short and sweet quip on her journey down the post-apocalyptic “Ok Boomer” meme and the birth of the intergenerational hostilities. We also discussed frictions between generations, and what this means for the future. All of course in good humor, of course. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/29/style/ok-boomer.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/29/style/ok-boomer.html

 

Ole Bondevik showed us one of his favorite advertisements stemming from a Norwegian campaign that encourages people to use seatbelts. He explained that Norway has successfully reduced the number of preventable injuries by promoting seat belts. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=quqlIPZrdz8 (warning: sensitive content).

Arsalan Akhter introduced us to the realm of Vehicle Routing. He explained the traveling salesman’s problem and the use of artificial intelligence to regulate traffic patterns. Check these out:

TL;DR

Our discussion covered everything from technology to work-life balance. As usual, after everyone shared their ideas we  voted for the idea we wanted to hear more about. Unlike previous events, we ended up with a tie between two ideas. We really liked our discussion of vehicle routing, and how this presents challenges and opportunities in A.I. We teased out the work-life complexities of a common but inspiring phrase: “Never be satisfied.” In our discussion, we clearly took this advice to heart.

An Invitation

Did any inspiration strike? Do you have any curious ideas that you want to share? If you are interested in attending our future “Curiouser & Curiouser” events, check out our page to stay in the loop. This was the Curiouser for November 2019, but we’re looking forward to connecting at more Curiouser events in early 2020. Send us a message at hello@refineandfocus.com to keep in touch.

Share this with a curious person!

Cover image by Clay Banks

Curiouser with Google’s Amrit Dhir

Curious people make the best teachers. They ask insightful questions, follow their instincts and solve problems in unexpected & refreshing ways. Notice how their mind works: everything seems possible when you’re around them.

Amrit Dhir, Head of Global Operations at Google for Startups, exemplifies this. He’s a startup pro, gentleman scholar, rockstar, culture builder and truly authentic soul. I’m confident you’ll learn not only from what he has to say, but also from why he says it. You don’t want to miss this interview. Curious?

Jump to the highlights:

1:50 – Get Inside Amrit’s Head

 

5:05 – Listening & Leadership

 

9:35 – Curiosity and Strategic Planning  

 

16:00 – Rapid Fire Q&A

 

Curiouser and Curiouser: Insights from our Innovation Showcase

We believe that curiosity is an antidote to prevent obsoleteness and stale growth. We believe it so hard that we made curiosity part of our corporate culture, and our daily projects.

Every week we attend events in marketing, science, innovation, creativity, design and investing. We love exploring the subject matter and enjoy sharing with attendees before and after each event. These sessions lead us to discover new relationships, insights, projects and ideas. We know this wouldn’t be possible without Boston’s growing innovation ecosystem, therefore we decided to contribute and the city calendar through a new group initiative.

We launched a new event.  

Earlier this month we launched a space to share and to celebrate the people and ideas we encounter, especially those related to innovation. Using curiosity as a theme, and show&tell as the format, we invited 17 scholars, scientists, investors, professionals and students to join us at an event in our office called: “Curiouser & Curiouser: a casual evening of ideas & innovation.

How it worked.

The ticket fee for each attendee was to bring at least one idea to share with the rest of the group. This idea must matter to them and could be an article, product, initiative, concept, video, website, trend, side project or company.

Each attendee had up to five minutes to share and discuss their idea(s), making for around 90min of innovation-filled conversations. This format was inspired by Thursday’s at Berkman, a group that met at Harvard’s Berkman School to share ideas related to technology and civic life back in the early 2000s.

What we discovered.

If you are curious to know what the attendees shared, we included the highlights of the night below:

1. Zach Braiker – How to save the planet with 5-minute showers

Offices by day, restaurants by night, the new coworking trend.

Digital immortality: the idea that our brain’s can be transferred into computers

Exclusive funding opportunities for startups developing Life OS

2. Larry Yu – Commit to one civic act per day, document and enjoy the impact

3. Joanne Markow – Your next piece of jewellery might come from a 3D printer

Must-read book, if you want to be a better leader

4. Purnima Thakre – Ironically, the best TV show on Netflix is about technology addiction

Your next smartphone should be dumber than ever, for peace’s sake

5. Greg Harris – Remain connected to peers through music, a story of an impromptu, local Steely Dan cover band

6. Gati Dharani – How healthcare is evolving through human factors innovation

7. Mike O’Neill – Meet a local community that generates and consumes its own renewable energy

8. Nupura BhiseThis app helps people go through the opioid addiction recovery process

9. Juan Montezco – Support organization for teens with HIV

10. Tom Dodge – What if there was a meetup for videographers + vote for ideas to produce?

11. Steele Divitto – The future of medicine lays on real-time analytics: http://dayamed.com

12. Sadaf Atarod – What if there was a house-sharing app for scientists and by scientists?

13. Christian Magel – How often do you go out for dinner with your neighbors?

14. Amélie Wauters – Bookmark this site, for state-of-the-art innovation and nanotechnology news

15. Albin Anthony – A must-read innovation blog by Tim Urban

16. Alyssa Nugent – Never again run out of battery, neither style with this smart bag

Ford makes it easier for your baby to have sweet dreams

17. Eduardo Pujol – Don’t carry your carry-on, ride it instead.

An Invitation to Join Us.

Which of these ideas sound more exciting to you? Which of these had you never heard before? We are honored that so many people shared ideas that matter to them, and that through sharing, we’ve developed a trusted community eager to support and collaborate with one another’s initiatives and interests.

That night 17 people walked into our meeting room with at least one idea in their minds. A few hours later, the same 17 people left the room with 20+ new ideas each. If you’re a curious person and interested in attending our future Curiouser and Curiouser events, please send us a message at hello@refineandfocus.com

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