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Strategic insights
Its Always About The Story

Written by on March 10, 2010

Companies are constantly trying to come up with something new and exciting, but most of the time they to tend to focus on the wrong thing. Instead of creating a story, they make a book. Instead of creating interesting articles, they created a printed magazine. Instead of making remarkable products, they design a new website.

The focus on a specific outcome as an object is never a very effective way to get ahead. Instead, you need to focus on the story, the emotion, the feeling and the experience.

Let me illustrate that in a very simple way...

Most people cannot draw comics. Or rather, most people think that they cannot draw comics. Because every time they try it, they always end up with the same old boring stickman.

If you ask somebody to draw a man, they start of with a line of the body, then add legs, and finally arms, and a round head - and voila, the same old boring stickman that we have seen a hundred times before.

But here is the thing. The problem with the stickman is not that it lacks detail, or even that it is made out of sticks. There is nothing wrong with the lines or the shapes.

The problem is that this stickman has no purpose. He doesn’t ignite any emotion or recognition in your brain. He lacks a reason for existing.

To Illustrate this, let’s give him a tennis racket:

Already, the dull and uninteresting character is starting to transform. Now your mind is thinking “I wonder what he will do with that?” You have associations to sport, maybe personal experiences, and we have introduced life.

It is still the very same stickman, using the exact same lines.

So let’s play:

While this is certainly not the most impressive works of art you have ever seen, it does illustrate a very important point.

If you just focus on creating the thing - you end up with a lifeless object similar to the standard stickman. But, when you drive your innovation based on the story, emotion, feeling, or the experience you want to create, then even a simple thing as a stickman can come to live.

  • When Penguin started to look at how they could move their books unto the iPad, they didn’t scan in the printed book and saved it as an ebook (like most publishers are doing). They focused on the story, and suddenly the book was full of life.
  • If you want to re-energize your magazine, then the wrong thing to do is to focus on paper and fonts, you need to focus on the story you tell via your articles.
  • You don’t just design a website, you figure out what story you want to tell - and then you use that to guide the lines you make.
  • You don’t just publish your latest products on Facebook and Twitter - you think of how your products fit into the story of people’s lives, and you communicate using that as your guide.

Without a story, you just got a passive stickman. The problem that most companies have, are not that the their “stickman” isn’t beautiful enough, or that he lacks just the right kind of style. The problem is that their stickman doesn’t know what he is supposed to be.

It’s the story, either implicit, or explicit that creates results. So go out and create your story!

Notice: Another comic from - Sorry, we lost our common sense.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.


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